Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilisation 2014

As a student - even a postgraduate - it can be a rare thing to be presented with a job opportunity that is both relevant and interesting. I was only too delighted, therefore, when one of my professors, David Cesarani, asked me to work as a part-time Administrator for the Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilisation 2014.

This 10-day residential conference was sponsored by the Holocaust Education Foundation at Northwestern University, USA, and the Pears Foundation. It was held on the Royal Holloway campus but included excursions into London itself, for a tour of the Jewish East End and trips to the Jewish Museum and Bevis Marks and Sandys Row Synagogues.

18 delegates were selected, most of whom were PhD candidates or junior members of faculty in universities. Delegates represented three continents; as well as a few British delegates, some had come from as far afield as Australia, Egypt, Romania and Canada. Disciplines also varied amongst delegates; whilst some had a background in Holocaust and/or Jewish Studies, there were also candidates that had completed studies in Medicine, English Literature, German Studies and Textiles.

The course itself focused mainly on five areas:
- Jewish History, taught by Prof. David Cesarani
- Holocaust Historiography, taught by Prof. Dan Stone and Dr. Rebecca Jinks
- Film and the Holocaust, taught by Prof. Barry Langford
- Holocaust Literature, taught by Profs. Robert Eaglestone and Sue Vice
- Jewish Thought: Who is a Jew?, taught by Rabbi Chaim Weiner

Delegates also heard from many experts in the fields of Holocaust and Jewish studies, or those who had completed projects dealing with either subject matter. These included:
- Adam Ganz, Royal Holloway, on his radio play 'The Gestapo Minutes'
- Prof. Jean-Marc Dreyfus, University of Manchester, on the Jews of Alsace
- Dr Rachel Century, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, on female perpetrators of the Holocaust
- Suzanne Bardgett, Imperial War Museum, on the Imperial War Museum's Holocaust Exhibition
- Paul Salmons, Institute of Education, on Holocaust education in the U.K.
- Rabbi Barry Marcus, Central Synagogue, on taking British groups to Auschwitz

Delegates also experienced a traditional Friday night Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and his family, and, on the last night, delegates were also treated to a performance of traditional Yiddish folk songs by PhD student Vivi Lachs. You can hear an example of Vivi's work here.

Overall, the Institute was a resounding success, enabling delegates to broaden their knowledge in both subject areas and create cross-continental friendships, which may even lead to new research projects. My thanks to all those involved, especially to Carmel Heeley, who helped to share my workload during the conference!