This September, the University of Richmond hosted a four-day seminar on “The Future of Holocaust Memory: A Global Consideration of Holocaust Commemoration Held in the American South.” Led by the Office of International Education – in partnership with the Office of the Chaplaincy – the University collaborated with the Virginia Holocaust Museum and the University of Haifa to welcome Holocaust researchers from around the world for this unique experience.

While the seminar officially began on Tuesday, September 24 with a welcome reception at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, early arrivals began their conference experience at the Chaplaincy’s Weinstein-Rosenthal Forum on Monday, September 23. Following the opening reception with remarks by renowned Holocaust Scholar, Jan Grabowski, the conference included five research panels on Holocaust memory, a visit to the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar Iron Works and tour of Monument Avenue with Professor Julian Hayter, and a discussion with President Emeritus Dr. Ed Ayers. Four members of the University community were included in the academic sessions including professors L. Stephanie Cobb and Michelle Kahn, Thomas Vanderbeek ’19, and Jewish Chaplain and Director of Religious Life, Josh Jeffreys.

In the midst of the seminar, five researchers joined the Office of the Chaplaincy for a special student-oriented panel discussion on the same theme. Three of the panelists were recent graduates of the Weiss-Livnat International Masters Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, one was preparing to graduate from the program, and one is a Ph.D. candidate in Holocaust Studies from the University of Haifa. The international group of young scholars each spoke about Holocaust commemoration and education in their respective home countries, including the United Kingdom, Austria, Russia, Israel, and the United States.

For students, faculty, and staff involved in the seminar – not to mention our partner institutions and conference participants – the experience was seen as an overwhelming success. In addition to providing attendees with the opportunity to further ongoing research projects, the week allowed the University of Richmond to strengthen our relationship with the University of Haifa – our study abroad partner in Israel.

The seminar was carefully designed to juxtapose the American South’s efforts to commemorate the Civil War with the near-global effort to memorialize the Holocaust. This type of comparison can often lead to “a no-win competition of victimization,” but the agenda instead allowed for a greater understanding of broader issues like historical trauma, oppression, and genocide. The Chaplaincy is grateful to all of our partners for fostering this very important conversation.