UD to host first ever North Texas Jewish Studies Conference

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A poster advertising the Holocaust conference is pinned to a bulletin board in Gorman. Photo by Samuel Curran.

On Feb. 24, the University of Dallas will host the first-ever North Texas Jewish Studies Conference, entitled “The Holocaust and the Past and Future of Judaism.”

Drawing from a renowned group of scholars from North Texas universities such as the University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Dallas, the conference will address the history of the Holocaust, Judaism, and contemporary anti-semitism.

Theology professor Dr. Mark Goodwin,  who specializes in Jewish Studies, spearheaded the conference and is passionate about the relevance of the conference for UD students.

“University of Dallas students are encountering aspects of our faith particularly relating to anti-semitism,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin encouraged UD students to attend the conference. The conference will be held in SB Hall and is free for University of Dallas students who are pursuing or interested in a concentration in Jewish Studies. Goodwin said these students need to contact him by Friday, Feb. 22 in order to receive free admission. There is a $20 cost for all other participants.

“[This conference] fits into a 20th-century environment in which there is a rise of anti-semitism and neo-nazism,” Goodwin said.

In an environment where anti-semitism can take the form of a subtle stigma rather than outright violence, Goodwin said that it can be all the more difficult to confront these issues head-on.

Hate directed against the Jewish people in the Holocaust, unfortunately, is still present in our western world,” he said, adding that the Holocaust calls for a response from “all Christians.”

The conference will confront contemporary anti-semitism through talks surrounding themes such as “The Problem of Hate from the Holocaust to the Present,” which examines the effects of contemporary anti-semitism. Presenter Mary-Catherine Hass  will also deliver a talk entitled “Atmospheres and Compositions of a Self-Loathing Jew,” while presenter William Lunny will approach anti-semitism from the unique perspective of the arts as he speaks on “The Effects of Anti-Semitism on Jewish Composers.”

“The University of Dallas is quite fortunate to be hosting this conference,” said history professor Dr. Charles Sullivan, who will moderate an interview with Zsuzsanna Ozsvath, a Holocaust survivor and current Director of Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Sullivan is the only person associated with the University of Dallas who will speak at the conference.

“It’s the kind of event that raises our university’s profile in the community.  So it’d sure be nice if the event were a success and if our university were able to host it in the future,” Sullivan said, noting the conference distinguishes University of Dallas’ Jewish Studies program from that of other universities, such as University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Texas at Dallas.

“If Dr. Sullivan cares about something, it’s probably worth caring about,” said Clare Basil, a senior who plans to attend the conference. Her interest in the Holocaust was sparked by Sullivan’s Western Civilization II class.

“It’s just something impossible to wrap your mind around,” Basil said of the Holocaust.

It is significant that UD as a Catholic institution is hosting the event, Goodwin said. As a professor and co-director of the Jewish Studies Program, Goodwin explores the Jewish roots of our Catholic faith.

Goodwin said that the conference is an extension of UD’ Jewish Studies program.

The Jewish Studies program examines Jewish thought and traditions, and draws its inspiration from the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate,” which translates to “In Our Time.”

“Nostra Aetate,” Goodwin said, “opened [the] door for friendly relations between Catholics and Jews (and) encouraged Catholics to study Judaism as part of the Catholic faith. “Nostra Aetate” identifies the origins of the Catholic faith in the life and story of Israel.”

The Jewish Studies program draws from this rich legacy of ecumenism from Vatican II, and by hosting the North Texas Jewish Studies Conference the program is responding to the council’s call for interreligious dialogue, Goodwin said.

“In order to challenge [anti-semitism] you must understand it,” Goodwin said.

The Jewish Studies program and the North Texas Jewish Studies Conference engage the community in Jewish history and thought so that we can, in turn, defy the contemporary atmosphere of anti-semitism, Goodwin said.

“[Jewish Studies is]a way of confronting it, questing it, challenging it,” Goodwin added.

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