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Syracuse University to host groundbreaking symposium on Holocaust education

October 09, 2008

Kelly Homan Rodoski
(315) 443-3784

Kelly Homan Rodoski

Marilyn Ziering G'56 and the Ziering Family Foundation will sponsor the "Symposium on Holocaust Education: A Tribute to the Voices Lost," a groundbreaking week of events Oct. 23-31 on the Syracuse University campus that will bring together a diverse group of people-from scholars to performers-to build knowledge and understanding about the realities of the Holocaust. The symposium is taking place in the days before the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or "The Night of Broken Glass," an attack on Jewish people and their property in Germany in November 1938.

One of the highlights of the symposium will be the Northeast Regional Education Summit, "Exploring the Future of Holocaust Education," on Oct. 29-31, bringing together educators from nine states and the District of Columbia who have a wide range of experiences in Holocaust education. The invitation-only event is presented by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in cooperation with the SU School of Education and the Spector/Warren Fellowship for Future Educators.

The summit is part of a continuing series of regional summits led by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to enhance dialogue and cooperation among groups involved in Holocaust education. Among the topics of conversation are presentations by USHMM historians about modern anti-Semitism; the ethical dilemmas faced by teachers in the Third Reich; and strategies to respond to instances of modern genocide.

The symposium is presented through the cooperative efforts of SU's College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), SU's School of Education, Hillel at Syracuse University, Syracuse University Library, the University Lectures series, the Judaic Studies Program in The College of Arts and Sciences and SU Abroad's Florence Center. It continues the work of Marilyn Ziering and the Ziering Family Foundation to promote Holocaust education in honor of her late husband, Siegfried "Sigi" Ziering G'55,'58, a Holocaust survivor.

"I don't think people today are sufficiently conscious of the enormous losses to art and culture wrought by the Holocaust," says Ziering. "We see graphic pictures of tortured bodies and we lament the loss of human beings, but it's equally staggering and important to realize what the loss of these lives has meant in terms of the talent, inspiration and artistic genius that was also forfeited when so many perished.

"I am grateful that Syracuse University is acting to help diminish this artistic void by giving belated voice to the works of victims who were either murdered or ostracized, and I commend them for doing so," Ziering says. "I hope reviving these works not only honors the past but gives new life, meaning and richness to the future."

"To paraphrase James Conlon, who has led the Recovered Voices Project, by remembering the lives and culture of the victims of the Holocaust 'we deny those past regimes their posthumous victory,'" says Alan Goldberg, professor emeritus in SU's School of Education and coordinator of the Spector/Warren Fellowship. "What is important to realize is that this is not a one-time series of events, but part of an ongoing effort by the University community, through a variety of programs, to address the moral and ethical issues raised by the Holocaust and genocide."

The symposium will begin on Thursday, Oct. 23, with "A Conversation with James Conlon: The Story Behind the Recovered Voices Project," at 7:30 p.m. in the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor Auditorium in Crouse College. The event, part of VPA's Distinguished Artists' Series and co-hosted by the University Lectures series, is free and open to the public.

One of today's pre-eminent conductors, Conlon is music director of the Los Angeles Opera; music director of the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and has been music director of the Cincinnati May Festival since 1979. In an effort to raise public consciousness about the significance of works of composers whose lives and compositions were suppressed by the Nazi regime, Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music in North America and Europe through the Recovered Voices Project.

Conlon will conduct a master class on the Recovered Voices Project for dramatic arts, music education and Holocaust Education students on Friday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. in Setnor Auditorium. The event is open to the public.

On Monday, Oct. 27, "The Memory Thief" a feature film by director Gil Kofman, and "The Dr. John Haney Session," a short film by Owen Shapiro, Shaffer Chair of Film in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and co-founder and artistic director of the Syracuse International Film Festival, will be screened at 7 p.m. at the Everson Museum, 401 Harrison St. in Syracuse. The screenings are free and open to the public.

"The Memory Thief" traces the psychological journey of a young non-Jewish man whose growing obsession with the Holocaust leads to unexpected consequences. The film mixes its fictional story with oral history documentation of real Holocaust survivors. "The Dr. John Haney Session" explores the psychological state of the second generation-children of Holocaust survivors-as four children of survivors participate in a group therapy session with a Christian therapist, who is himself married to a child of survivors.

Both filmmakers will be present to discuss their films. Call the VPA Dean's Office at 443-5889 for more information.

On Oct. 29, drama students will perform a dramatic reading of the play "The Judgment of Herbert Bierhoff," written by Sigi Ziering, for faculty and students. Following the student reading, Michael Berenbaum, a scholar on the study of the memorialization of the Holocaust and director of the Sigi Ziering Institute, will lead a discussion. Berenbaum is the editor of "Murder Most Merciful," a collection of essays that consider Ziering's play. Berenbaum will continue his work with SU faculty and students later that day, when he will lead a discussion for School of Education students on "Issues of Teaching the Holocaust and Genocide: The Next Generation."

The exhibition "1938-1945: The Persecution of the Jews of Italy," consisting of 38 panels of images and documentation on the Italian Holocaust experience, will open at the Winnick Hillel Center for Jewish Life Oct. 30 and continue through April 1, 2009. The exhibition was originally created by the Centro Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea in Milan, Italy. Students at SU Abroad's Florence Center translated the exhibition's text into English in their classes during the Fall 2007 semester as part of a study of Fascist Italy and the Second World War. It was first presented at the Syracuse University Florence Art Gallery in January of this year.

SU is also one of 10 partner universities worldwide that offer access to the Shoah Foundation Institute's Visual History Archive, housed at the University of Southern California. SU offers access through SU Library. The archive includes nearly 52,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors, rescuers and other witnesses gathered by the Shoah Foundation. The interviews, in 32 languages, were conducted in 56 countries from 1994-2005. For more information about Shoah or to arrange for access or a demonstration, contact Lydia Wasylenko at 443-4692.

For more information about symposium activities, contact Victoria Kohl at 443-7773 or

Sigi Ziering, along with his mother and older brother, were taken from their native Germany by Nazi soldiers and transported to a ghetto in Riga, Latvia, in 1941. There, they endured and witnessed unspeakable horrors. They were later transferred to Fuhlsbuttel prison, where they routinely watched their fellow prisoners loaded onto trucks headed for the concentration camps. "With German precision, the guards went at their job alphabetically-and never got to Z," Ziering told Fortune magazine in 1998.

Ziering, his mother and brother survived the Holocaust and were reunited with Ziering's father in London in 1945. The Ziering family immigrated to New York City in 1949. Sigi went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College and master's and doctoral degrees in physics at SU. He married Marilyn Brisman, G'56, who had earned a master's degree in audiology at SU. Sigi helped to found and became president of Space Sciences and settled his family in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. It was there, in 1973, that he founded Diagnostic Products Corp., a company that makes immunodiagnostic tests and the instruments to read them. DPC is now a part of Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.

Although Sigi Ziering found unbounded success as the leader of a high-tech, international corporation and as a family man, his experiences as a Holocaust survivor remained an important part of who he was. After his death in November 2000, Marilyn Ziering and her family established the Sigi Ziering Institute at American Jewish University in Los Angeles to further the exploration and study of the ethical and religious implications of the Holocaust.

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