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The summer semester is coming to an end and with it, another group of students is saying goodbye to the University of Haifa and Israel. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting some students of Cohort VI as they share their best experiences from the Weiss-Livnat program and the exciting new adventures they are starting next!

Margarita Pedchenko is from Moscow, Russia. She received her BA in Jewish Studies from Moscow State University. Before joining the Weiss-Livnat Program she participated in The One-Year Jewish Studies Program at The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Paideia, Sweden (2016-2017).

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Margarita Pedchenko

Which of the courses you took this year was your favorite?

“Undoubtedly for me, the course Literature of the Shoah, with Dr. Miryam Sivan since I specialize in literary studies. It was great in terms of the contents and at the same time was effectively structured, keeping a good balance between reading the material, analyzing it through writing and discussing it in the group. Most importantly, it was not boring at all – and it is hard to compose an academic course that would be equally engaging for everyone.”

A favorite experience you had in Israel?

“The most unexpected outcome was being introduced to a grand-nephew of one of my favorite writers – Ilya Ilf. Before that, I didn’t know that his descendant lives in Israel. Another remarkable experience was learning about the existence of Miss Holocaust Beauty Pageant and talking to the participants.”

Will you be participating in any of our upcoming international internships?

“I have been accepted as an intern to the Jewish Museum in Budapest, so I am going there quite soon. I am also planning to write a thesis on Holocaust representation in the Israeli graphic novels and to continue on the academic path. Will see where it leads!”

The summer semester is coming to an end and with it, another group of students is saying goodbye to the University of Haifa and Israel. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting some students of Cohort VI as they share their best experiences from the Weiss-Livnat program and the exciting new adventures they are starting next!

Elizabeth Schram is from San Antonio, Texas. She received her BA in Applied Learning and Development from the University of Texas, Austin. Before joining the Weiss-Livnat Program, Elizabeth taught English as a second language in Netanya, Israel through MASA.

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Elizabeth Schram

What was your favorite course you took during your year in the Weiss-Livnat Program?

“The most intriguing course I took this year was Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust through WHY Questions with Dr. Nurit Novis Deutsch. As an educator myself, I am very passionate about Holocaust education and enjoyed engaging with the various methods being used in Holocaust Education today.”

Tell us one of your best Israel experiences. 

“One of my favorite experiences in Israel was getting to barbecue with friends on the Carmel Mountain in Haifa. Being in nature, eating great food, listening to music and watching beautiful sunsets was always so relaxing and fun.”

elana jakel photo1Students of the Wiess-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies were treated to a fascinating guest lecture from Dr. Elana Jakel, Program Director of the Initiative for the Study of Ukrainian Jewry at the Center for Advanced  Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in  Washington, DC.

Dr. Jakel’s research focuses on the experiences of Jews, both individually and collectively, in Ukraine during the first years following the Holocaust. Her studies analyze the challenges the community faced and the ways these challenges helped shape the role of Jews in postwar Soviet society.

Students of the Weiss-Livnat MA Program in Holocaust studies were recently treated to an engaging and poignant lecture by Dr. Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs; Memory, Non-Memory, and Post-Memory of the Holocaust in Poland.

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Dr. Ambrosewicz-Jacobs is a lecturer at the UNESCO Chair for Education for the Holocaust, and former Director of the Centre for Holocaust Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She holds a Ph.D. in Humanities and Habilitation in Cultural Studies from Jagiellonian University and has been a Pew Fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University and a DAAD fellow at the memorial and educational site at the Wannsee Conference House.

With the recently enacted “Amended Act on the Institute of National Remembrance” causing waves in both academic and political spheres, Dr. Ambrosewicz-Jacobs’ lecture provided students the opportunity to learn first-hand about the internal politics behind the new law and how it is perceived by Polish Holocaust scholars. Although the Amended Act refers to accusations against Poland as a country, not against individuals, and provides room for artistic and academic statements, critics worry that it could make it a crime to discuss anti-Semitic acts committed by Polish individuals.

Hannah Lessing minIn 1995, Hannah M. Lessing took the helm of Austria's National Fund, an institution entrusted with Holocaust recognition, restitution and remembrance. At the time, her father, himself a survivor, was less than impressed with her decision to turn her back on a successful banking career. His response? "Can you give me back my childhood? Can you bring back my mother from Auschwitz?"

"That's when I decided to do it, with the knowledge that we cannot turn back the hands of time, that we cannot repair anything," Hannah explains. And true to her word, she approached the then President of Parliament and asked for the job.  

"He asked what I would need to get started. I told him that I need you to write a letter, together with me, on Austrian parliament paper, where we say that we’re sorry, that it’s too late and we are aware that nothing can be repaired. Then, I need historians who will research, I need staff who will listen, and I need open access to the archives.

"'Very interesting', he said, and he told me to send him a letter with all of my ideas. I left the meeting thinking I'll never hear from him again. Still, I wrote the letter and two weeks later I had the job.  

Doron Livnat minEvery year, Yitzhak Livnat would proudly welcome the new cohort of students and share his remarkable story of survival. He did so “in a very authentic way”, his son, Doron, tells us. “My father was always very genuine and very honest.” Sadly, Yitzhak passed away in March 2017, and so, Doron now carries the torch in his father’s honour.

Cohort VI joined Doron, together with his wife Marianne, at the Yitzhak Rabin Centre for a tour of the Israeli Museum. After all, Yitzhak Livnat was a devoted Zionist and his story, just like Rabin’s, is deeply entangled with that of the birth and development of the State of Israel. The perfect setting, then, in which to remember a dear friend of the programme.

Thankfully, Yitzhak’s story is well documented. He survived internment at Auschwitz, as well as subsequent death marches to Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, where, finally, liberation arrived in the form of American troops. From there, he began an arduous, improbable journey to Eretz Yisrael, one that took him to Bucharest, the Alps, the Vatican, Cyprus and, at long last, Haifa.

Hier Wohnte Else Liebermann"A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten." Words from the Talmud, no less, and the inspiration behind the world's "largest commemoration project", the Stolperstein.  

The brainchild of German artist Gunter Demnig in the early 1990s, Stolpersteine – stumbling stones or blocks – are commemorative brass plaques installed in the pavement in front of a Holocaust victim's last address of choice. Each engraving begins with the words, "Here lived…"            

Cohort VI enjoyed a lively afternoon with ethical campaigner Terry Swartzberg, who is a tireless and, quite clearly, passionate advocate of the memorial project. “Stolpersteine are just the start of getting to know someone, an introduction to the victim,” he explains. “We can restore their name to our consciousness.”