On Sunday, May 8, at 4 p.m., the Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (the Fish Center) at Yeshiva University, is presenting a fascinating lecture by guest speaker public historian Yitzchak Mais. The lecture will be presented via the Zoom platform and is the fourth in a series entitled “What Is the Holocaust Today?” This multi-part series is a multi-disciplinary exploration of the Shoah’s ever-changing and everlasting impact on our lives and the world we live in.
“The series looks at the Holocaust as a cultural phenomenon, not only an historical event, and is looking at the way it impacts the world we live in. It is produced by our MA student, Sari Sheinfeld,” said Dr. Shay Pilnik, director, Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Yeshiva University.
Yitzchak Mais is the former director of the museum at Yad Vashem and founding chief curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York. Mais is a distinguished historian and museum professional with over 35 years experience and has contributed to numerous scholarly and educational publications. He has developed museum projects on Jewish history and the Holocaust worldwide, including in Jerusalem, Kiev, Montreal, Moscow and New York. Some of Mais’ other projects include curator for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Skokie, Illinois; the Basketball Hall of Fame Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts; and educational/historical consultant for “Voices of the Holocaust: Children Speak,” an interactive educational CD produced by Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation in Los Angeles.
Mais is co-author of the book “Memory and Legacy: The Shoah Narrative of the Illinois Holocaust Museum” and is also the editor and a contributor to the anthology, “Daring to Resist: Jewish Defiance in the Holocaust,” which was the companion volume to the exhibit he curated of the same name. The exhibition was one of four exhibitions honored in the Excellence in Exhibition Competition, awarded by the American Association of Museums in 2008. His most recent publication, “Macedonian Chronicle: The Story of Sephardic Jews in the Balkans” (2011) is the companion volume to the exhibition, which he co-curated with Edward Serotta.
Presently, a project that Mais is associated with is the planned International Reb Shlomo Carlebach Center in Moshav Meor Modi’im, Israel. The Center is an interactive memorial museum and performing arts center, focusing on the “Life and Times of Reb Shlomo.” Mais is also concept developer and chief curator for the planned new museum, “House of Fates,” Budapest, Hungary, dealing with the Hungarian Holocaust, scheduled to open in 2023.
Mais will be speaking about public history and the ever-evolving field of museology. His lecture, entitled “Remembering the Holocaust in Museums: What Are We Remembering?,” will be co-sponsored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York.
“Mr. Mais’ incredibly wide and vast expertise is making a profound impact on how subsequent generations of the general public will see, hear and learn about the Holocaust as we lose the last precious survivors to time. It has been both humbling and inspiring to work with and hear from this roster of professionals working in the field and Mr. Mais’ passion and dedication is palpable when speaking to him,” said Sari Sheinfeld.
Sheinfeld went on to comment, “I think that there is a lot to be learned from those who purvey history to the public and in Mr. Mais’ role as the one who writes the narrative for museums, I am sure his talk on what it is that we are choosing to remember is going to be incredibly interesting, especially given his current work in Budapest and his newly appointed role as chief curator of the new Holocaust museum to be opened in Salonika.”
Each month, the series “What Is the Holocaust Today?” featured a distinguished guest speaker who is leading and innovating in their field, reaching across multiple disciplines. In February, the Fish Center hosted historian Dr. Katarzyna Person. Dr. Person spoke about her research and about her book “The Warsaw Ghetto Police: The Jewish Order Service During the Nazi Occupation.” In March, Dr. Beata Schulman, former executive director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, spoke about “Preservation, Commemoration, Restitution and Politics of Memory: Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Sites in Poland.” In April, journalist Faris Cassell discussed her book “The Unanswered Letter,” winner of the 2020 National Jewish Book Award, the Holocaust Award in Memory of Ernest W. Michel. Cassell also addressed how one now 80-year-old letter led her to Holocaust research across the globe.
“This series positions the Fish Center and the YU community at the forefront of Holocaust Education at a critical time in our history, when Holocaust survivors are fewer and fewer while antisemitism is on the rise both locally and globally,” said Dr. Shay Pilnik, director of the Fish Center.
The Fish Center works to build a cadre of teachers, professional and lay leaders across the United States, committed to Holocaust Education and Remembrance and ready to meet the challenges that the field is facing as survivors of the Holocaust are passing away and awareness of the subject in public memory is fading. Through its planned lectures, workshops, seminars and communal resources and activities, the Fish Center seeks to ensure that the Holocaust and other genocides will continue to be studied and remembered.
You can join the event on May 8, at 4 p.m., on the Fish Center’s events page: https://www.yu.edu/fish- center/events.
Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.