The Stephen S. Weinstein Holocaust Symposium (formerly Pastora Goldner Symposium) is a unique project of Fairleigh Dickinson University. It offers the opportunity for reflection and dialogue about the Holocaust and its impact on modern life, and is committed to making a contribution to tikkun olam, the “repair” of a world devastated by the events of 1933-1945. The Symposium brings together professionals and academics of diverse disciplinary, cultural, and religious backgrounds, and does its work both during formal biennial conferences at Wroxton College and through ongoing dialogue and focused projects in the intervals between meetings.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Nicholas Baldwin, Dean of FDU’s Wroxton College, made the acquaintance of two distinguished Holocaust scholars: Dr. Leonard Grob (Fairleigh Dickinson University, now Professor Emeritus of Philosophy) and Dr. Henry F. Knight (formerly University Chaplain and Applied Associate Prof. of Hermeneutic and Holocaust Studies at the University of Tulsa and now emeritus Director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire). Aware of the common interests of these two academics, Dr. Baldwin suggested to FDU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs that Drs. Grob and Knight collaborate on an international gathering of Holocaust scholars at Wroxton under the auspices of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Drs. Grob and Knight met and discovered that they shared a common vision of what might constitute a rare and highly distinctive gathering of scholars in the field.
Scholarly conferences typically provide academics with opportunities for the presentation of papers to one another, followed by brief question and answer sessions. Attendees often relate the fact that the most interesting moments during a conference occur serendipitously in conversations over drinks, during coffee breaks, in hallways between and after formal sessions — in the interstices of planned sessions. Colleagues at conferences will sometimes skip formal sessions to remain engaged in such dialogue. The Grob-Knight team sought to build the Wroxton symposium around dialogical moments like these. There would be few formal presentations of papers. Participants would meet to exchange ideas, to nurture shared insights, to respectfully confront differing views, and to sustain dialogue over the months and years. Although a few guest speakers with particular expertise will sometimes be invited, members of the symposium would be both the teachers and learners in a shared community.
A true “community of scholars” would be created — and renewed — at Wroxton. The group would meet every two years, and extended over time so that projects could be nurtured through sustained dialogue. The need for making an impact on real-life settings was a priority. The intent was scholarly exchanges to impact the world around — discussions should contribute to tikkun olam, “the repair of the world.” We aimed to engage one another in thoughtful consideration of ways we could help create a more just and peaceful post-Holocaust world.
In 1995 Grob and Knight sent out an announcement of the Symposium series to Holocaust scholars around the world, inviting applications for participation. The invitation posed the following question to prospective candidates: How are we to utilize our learnings from the Holocaust in order to face, responsibly, the genocidal potentials inherent in our own world?
More than eighty proposals were received. The goal was that the gathering should be of sufficient size to provide a rich mix of people and small enough to encourage intensive dialogue. They determined that thirty-six optimum number of world-class conferees. The group of participants would be interdisciplinary (the Holocaust and its aftermath must be examined from a variety of perspectives); international (in a global community, to hear voices of citizens from many nations); interfaith (“healing the world” in a post-Holocaust era is not solely a Jewish concern); and intergenerational (senior scholars must teach and learn from younger scholars).
The biennial Holocaust Symposium first met at Wroxton College in June 1996. Participants have come from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden, England, and Poland. Among the scholars who have participated in this community are some the world’s leading Holocaust scholars. A few examples:
- Dr. John K. Roth, Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College and author/editor of more than thirty-five Holocaust-related books
- Dr. Myrna Goldenberg, Most recently, Visiting Ida B. King Distinguished Professor of Holocaust Studies, Richard Stockton College and author of major works on women and the Holocaust
- Dr. David Patterson, Bornblum Chair of Excellence in Judaic Studies, University of Memphis and author of more than one hundred articles and books on the Holocaust
- Dr. Margaret Brearley, Formerly at Centre for Judaism & Jewish-Christian Relations, Selly Oaks College; Advisor on the Holocaust to Archbishops’ Council of Church of England
- Dr. Peter Haas, Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
- Dr. Didier Pollefeyt, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Theology of Jewish- Christian Relations, Director of the Centre for Peace Ethics.Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium.
- Dr. Dorota Glowacka, Associate Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia