By Willy Nichter, Staff Writer
On Monday, September 18, Drew University worked with the College of St. Elizabeth to host a talk by Dr. Amy Weiss on the efforts of Protestants to create a Holocaust memorial in Israel. The talk was organized by the two schools due to their respective commitment to honoring the Holocaust, and to show support for each other’s programs.
“This is the first year that we have begun our collaborations,” said Marjorie Feinstein, Chair of the Advisory Board for the College of St. Elizabeth’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education. “Our director, Amy Weiss’s, expertise is in this area of Christian and Jewish relationships with regard to Holocaust education and understanding.”
“I received my Ph.D. from NYU,” Dr. Weiss said when asked about her credentials, “and my research is on the connection between Jewish-Christian relations and Holocaust studies.” While Dr. Weiss was the sole speaker, but the event was organized with assistance from Drew University’s own Joshua Kavaloski, Associate Professor of German and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Study.
The audience consisted mostly of elderly men and women, several of whom had come to previous Drew-hosted Holocaust events. “I’ve attended events in the past,” said Sue Rand, a guest at the event, “and I found them quite special.”
“It’s nice to be able to literally drive down the street to give a talk,” said Dr. Weiss to begin the talk, prompting laughs from the audience. From there, she went on to discuss a group of American Protestants known as the American Christian Palestine Committee and their fundraising campaign for the creation of the Children’s Memorial Forest in what was then Palestine. “This is one of the first Holocaust memorials anywhere,” said Dr. Weiss about the project, designed to honor the one million Jewish children who were killed during the Holocaust.
Throughout the talk, Dr. Weiss discussed the history of the American Christian Palestine Committee and their relationship with the Jewish National Fund. She also explained the various means they used to acquire money for the Children’s Memorial Forest as well as the overall history of the region that would become Israel. “These individuals, they are going to church, they are sitting on the same pews,” Dr. Weiss said about the various groups of American Christians and their stances on Zionism, “but when it comes to Palestine, many of these individuals disagree.”
Dr. Weiss talked about how the Children’s Memorial Forest was, in many ways, designed to “claim” the land of Palestine for a Jewish homeland, with advertisements and speeches implying that the region was languishing under Arab rule. However, Dr. Weiss also discussed how the campaign and the forest were used to educate young Christian children about the Holocaust and convince them to contribute donations. “They had worksheets, they had schools, they had ways for children to raise money and know what they are raising money for,” said Dr. Weiss.
“I want to close with this idea of a new generation,” said Dr. Weiss to finish the presentation, talking about the continued survival of Jews in the world and the fact that they had the option to go to Palestine/Israel in the first place. “That there are people to plant these trees is significant.”