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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Enslaved African Committee and NNJ Holocaust Education Committee to Hold Zoom Forum

The Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Committee (NNJHMEC) announced a joint virtual event with the Enslaved African Memorial Committee (EAMC) to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 24. Candace Pinn and Dennis Klein said in a combined statement: “We are launching a joint Black and Jewish project in a local setting to hear, rethink, reframe and give shape to ‘the unheard,’ as we explore the legacies of two distinct histories and their intersections, Chattel Slavery and the Holocaust. The project would engage our youth as we partner with our neighbors and descendants in Bergen County. The project will illuminate the intergenerational struggle against racism and xenophobia, while inspiring a collective responsibility to act.”

The first part of the forum will be moderated by a distinguished group of educators including Dennis Klein, director, Kean University MA program in Holocaust and genocide studies; Jack Tchen, Clement A. Price professor of public history and humanities at Rutgers University; Candace Pinn, president of The Westchester Alliance of Black School Educators; Tikvah Wiener, head of school at the Idea School; and Zainabu Conteh, secondary teacher at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

Part I will feature students from the Idea School and from Bergen County public schools discussing the Holocaust and slavery, and how to bridge the communication gap. Sarah Gorbatov, class of 2022 and Yehuda Zinberg, class of 2023 will represent the Idea School during the forum. Part II follows, with Klein and Pinn discussing their impressions about the students’ dialogue and the importance of these two organizations working together in advancing the understanding of each other’s cultural and historical experiences.

Weiner provided a case in point about students at the Idea School who took part in an elective class, “Allied Against Hate,” exploring the history of relations between the two communities, Black and Jewish. “At one point, we looked at the websites for Auschwitz and a former plantation, and noted that the Auschwitz memorial is appropriately horrifying and grave, while the website for the plantation looks romantic and inviting. Slavery is mentioned as an aside, but is not the main focus. We wondered what it would be like to have our [Holocaust] experience romanticized and minimized in such a fashion.

“The fact that Teaneck is planning a memorial to both enslaved peoples and the Holocaust is an opportunity to have the Black and Jewish communities try to bridge the divides that we learned have developed between us,” Weiner continued. “The ‘Allied Against Hate’ class showed us that we can do so. Overall, when we do the hard work of really listening to each other, we can effect changes in the ways that our communities view and interact with each other.” The “Allied Against Hate” class was funded by the Russell Berrie Foundation in Teaneck.

Klein, who is also a Teaneck resident, emphasizes the “intersectionality” of the groups. “We have the backing of the Teaneck Township Council, and we want to work together to adjust the spirit in the community, to cross boundaries that separate us rather than living in pockets of diversity.”

Both organizations plan to install memorials on the Teaneck Municipal Green, the “Garden to Nurture Human Understanding,” and to educate the local community about the histories and lessons to be learned from these respective tragedies.

The Zoom program is free to the public. Please visit nnjholocaustmemorial.org to register. All are encouraged to join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87841635262 The link will also be posted on the website and eamc.org. The program is being made possible by a grant from the Puffin Foundation.

By Ellie Wolf

 

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