Avinoam Patt, a professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Hartford in Connecticut and director of the university’s Museum of Jewish Civilization, will be the keynote speaker, November 9 at Kehillat Beth Israel, at the official launch of Holocaust Education Month in Ottawa.
Although several events are scheduled to take place earlier, the official launch event of Holocaust Education Month is held on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, an anti-Semitic pogrom in Nazi Germany that took place on November 9-10, 1938.
Patt’s research focuses on Jewish culture before, during and after the Holocaust including studies of Holocaust survivors, theological responses to the Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel, and contemporary Israeli and Jewish culture.
“In the aftermath of the Holocaust, there was a huge refugee crisis,” said Patt in a telephone interview with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin from his office in Hartford.
Patt said the key focus of his address in Ottawa will be on what can be learned from that crisis – and from the refugee crisis the world is currently experiencing.
“What were the refugees experiencing then? What challenges did they face?” he said. “And how do people continue their lives after such catastrophe?”
Today’s refugees ask themselves the same questions, he said. Then, as now, they and the entire world, wonder where they will go when they cannot return to what used to be their homes.
“With the rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism in general, the tremendous importance of understanding the Holocaust is clearer than ever,” he said. “This is why it is so important to continue to teach about the Holocaust in the 21st century.”
Patt said it is important to ask and consider how the Holocaust will be remembered in the future and how will this memory change over time.
“How will memory transfer from one generation to the next as survivors, the eye witnesses to the Holocaust, pass away?”
Patt’s research shows that many of today’s young Jews say the Holocaust plays an essential part in their Jewish identity. “What does that mean? What part or aspect of the Holocaust is so essential for them?” he asks.
The answers to these questions, he says, are relevant and vital.
The Holocaust Education Month launch will take place Thursday, November 9, 7 pm, at Kehillat Beth Israel, 1400 Coldrey Avenue. Admission is free of charge.
The event is presented by the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship, Kehillat Beth Israel, the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies at Carleton University, Saint Paul University, the University of Ottawa, and the Embassy of the United States.
Visit https://jewishottawa.com/HEM for a full listing of Holocaust Education Month events.