The CJC Looks Back at “The Use and Abuse of the Holocaust in Political Discourse Today”

On October 10, the Center for Jewish Civilization held “The Use and Abuse of the Holocaust in Political Discourse Today” with Ambassador David Saperstein. The CJC’s Associate Director, Dr. Anna Sommer, provided introductory remarks, after which Ambassador Saperstein began his instructive lecture about modern invocations of the Holocaust in politics and discourse. At the core of the event was the fraught question of whether or not events should be compared to the Holocaust. Saperstein revisited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s June 24 press release, which rejected “efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.” Ambassador Saperstein assessed existing surveys, ads, and speeches, and created an interactive environment in which members of the audience could discuss their opinions about the problematic. 

Ambassador Saperstein offered his nuanced view of the subject, noting that while comparing every historical event to the Holocaust would “diminish” its significance and distinct nature, viewing the Holocaust as something too unique to be referenced in political discourse inhibits the world from learning from it. Ultimately, Sapestein asserted that “one of the most valuable lessons” to be learned from the Holocaust is that any genocide or ethnic cleansing must be stopped as soon as “the first identifiable actions…first appear.”

About the Speaker

Ambassador Saperstein was the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from January 2015 to January 2017. He is currently an adjunct professor with the Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Center for Jewish Civilization and previously was a senior research fellow of the Religious Freedom Research Project at the Berkley Center. An ordained rabbi, he served for several decades as the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism representing the public policy positions of the Reform Jewish Movement, the largest segment of American Jewry, to the government and leading the movement’s efforts to strengthen social justice programming in synagogues across North America.

RSVP to the 2019 Andrew H. Siegal Lecture with Professor Danielle Pletka!

The Center for Jewish Civilization invites you to attend the annual Andrew H. Siegal Memorial Lecture featuring Danielle Pletka. RSVP today!
About the Event

The Bystander Effect: When Bad Things Happen in the World and No One Cares. Democracy is on the wane, anti-Semitism is on the rise, jihadis are coming back, rogue regimes feel secure, and it seems that few politicians or world leaders truly care. Is it the 1930s all over again? What should America do in this new and dangerous time?

About the Speaker

Danielle Pletka is a visiting lecturer at the Center for Jewish Civilization and an adjunct professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is also the Senior Vice President for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Before joining AEI, Ms. Pletka was a longtime senior professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where she specialized in the Near East and South Asia.

Ms. Pletka has authored, coauthored, and coedited a variety of studies and book chapters, including the report “Tehran Stands Atop the Syria-Iran Alliance” (Atlantic Council, 2017), and the chapter “America in Decline” in Debating the Obama Presidency (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

A reception with light hors d’oeuvres will take place at 2:45pm. RSVP is strongly encouraged.

Any person with an accommodation request is welcome to email us at cjcinfo@georgetown.edu. We will try to meet these accommodation requests to the best of our ability.

The CJC Hosts Its First Brown Bag Lunch

About the Event

On Tuesday, September 24, the Center for Jewish Civilization hosted its first brown bag lunch of the semester in McGhee Library. The event, which was open to only the first ten CJC students who RSVP’d, was centered on modern Israeli politics and the 2019 Israeli elections. The CJC’s Professor Moran Stern offered a backgrounder on Israel’s unicameral parliamentary system, as well as its September 17 elections, which was characterized by a 69.7 percent voter turnout. In one of the many standout moments of the lunch, Stern noted that “the main factor that dominates and shapes Israeli politics, probably since 2017, is the legal situation of Prime Minister Netanyahu.” This brown bag lunch is one of many that will examine pressing issues in both United States and Middle East politics. 

About the Speaker Moran Stern is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Maryland, College Park and a Graduate Fellow in Advanced Israel Studies. Since 2012, Stern has been teaching courses at the Center for Jewish Civilization on Israel and the contemporary Middle East. Moran holds an M.A. in International Relations, Economics, and Middle East Studies from the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and a B.A. in Philosophy and Communications from Saint Francis College, New York. He speaks Hebrew and Arabic.

Missed the CJC’s Brown Bag?

Professor Stern co-wrote an informative op-ed in The Jewish Week about Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s election. Read it here!

There is more to come from our Brown Bag series –– stay tuned, students!

CJC Proseminar’s Visit to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland

This week, the Center for Jewish Civilization’s Professor Jessica Roda presided over her proseseminar’s trip to the Polish Embassy. The class, entitled “Music, Politics, and International Relations,” discussed music diplomacy in Poland and the revival of Yiddish Polish Tango with Olga Avigail Mieleszczuk and her musicians. Mieleszczuk, a singer and researcher of Eastern European musical folklore, has previously stated that “Most of the artists, who invented a world-class, high-quality tango music in Poland, perished in the Holocaust. I have a mission to keep their legacy alive.” Professor Roda’s proseminar is one of many CJC courses which probe the exciting intersection between culture, politics, and international relations, and offers a window into the CJC’s rich interdisciplinary character. 

About CJC Professor Jessica Roda 

Jessica Roda is the Assistant Director of the Center for Jewish Civilization. She joined the CJC in the fall of 2018 as an Assistant Professor of Jewish Civilization. She is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist trained in European and North American schools and has published several peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and a monograph (Se réinventer au present. Les Judéo-espagnols de France, 2018, Presses Universitaires de Rennes) on the political implications of Sephardic and Arab-Jewish music in France, Spain, and Morocco. Dr. Roda is currently working on a second manuscript based on her ethnography of Hasidic life in Montreal and New York City (Performing Hasidicness. Ultra-Orthodox Jews on Stage and on Screen in North America). 

About the Proseminar

The 21st century Internet has democratized the circulation of ideas within and beyond the nation-state. In this context, music serves as a means of both alternative ideas and a reinforcement of the established order. International organizations, government actors, NGOs, artists, and a range of activists (from religious to social) have invested in music for their own political, social, and economic ends. This proseminar will focus on music as a way to reflect on politics and international affairs in the 21st century via issues such as globalization, cultural diplomacy, conflict resolution, community building, social movements, national hegemony and protectionism.

RSVP to “The Use and Abuse of the Holocaust in American Political Discourse Today” with Ambassador David Saperstein!

The Center for Jewish Civilization invites you to a lecture by Ambassador David Saperstein. RSVP today on our eventbrite!

About the Event 

References to the Holocaust, Hitler and Nazis are often used by politicians, religious leaders and others, in America and across the globe, in justifying their political positions. We see it in discussions on issues ranging from the challenges facing oppressed religious and ethnic groups like the Rohingya, Tibetan Buddhists, and Uighur Muslims in China; abortion; ISIL; Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; animal rights; the treatment of detained migrants; the nuclear arms race; stem cell research; and most recently, on Israel’s policies. By reviewing and evaluating real examples of ads, speeches, and campaigns, we will try to determine if the Holocaust is so unique it should not be used in political analogies at all. And if it should, what standards should determine when its use is appropriate and when inappropriate?

About the Speaker

Ambassador Saperstein was the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from January 2015 to January 2017. He is currently an adjunct professor with the Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Center for Jewish Civilization and previously was a senior research fellow of the Religious Freedom Research Project at the Berkley Center. An ordained rabbi, he served for several decades as the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism representing the public policy positions of the Reform Jewish Movement, the largest segment of American Jewry, to the government and leading the movement’s efforts to strengthen social justice programming in synagogues across North America. 

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Lunch will be served prior to the event. RSVP is encouraged.

Any person with an accommodation request is welcome to email us at cjcinfo@georgetown.edu. We will try to meet these accommodation requests to the best of our ability.

A Look Back at “Be Strong and of Good Courage” with Ambassador Dennis Ross

On Tuesday, September 17th, the Center for Jewish Civilization hosted a conversation with Ambassador Dennis Ross about his new book, Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny. Rabbi Harold White Professor of Jewish Civilization and Center Director Jacques Berlinerblau provided opening remarks, noting Ambassador Ross’s “command of both American and Middle Eastern foreign policy, as well as the exigencies of literary non-fiction.”

After his engaging discussion about the legacies of David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon, Ambassador Ross fielded questions from the audience about Israel’s political future. He explained his choice of Israeli political figures which frame his new work and stressed the dual importance of action and inaction as viable policy measures. After the event, he signed copies of his new book, which he co-wrote with David Makovsky. 

About Ambassador Dennis Ross

Ambassador Ross is the Counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process within the H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement, successfully brokering the 1997 Hebron Accord, and facilitating the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.

Ambassador Ross has worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton. 

Missed our event?

Have no fear! Ambassador Ross will discuss Be Strong and of Good Courage at Johns Hopkins University on Thursday, September 26th. RSVP for his book talk here.

The CJC Reflects on American Judaism in the Era of the Trump Presidency

Summary

On September 3rd, the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC) had its first event of the year. The discussion between CJC Professors Ira Forman, Danielle Pletka, Tamara Cofman Wittes and Jacques Berlinerblau was centered on remarks made by President Donald J. Trump about loyal and disloyal Jewish Americans. Trump’s comments triggered anger and denunciations from a broad spectrum of American voices. Crucially, they are triangulated against two salient features of his presidency. First, his tight embrace of the Netenyahu administration, and second, the disturbing rise of white supremacist violence directed against Jews and others in the United States. Center for Jewish Civilization Director Berlinerblau interviewed the three thought leaders, each of whom share extensive knowledge on issues pertaining to the Middle East and American politics. 

Notable Moments

A round-up of notable moments during the event can be found on the CJC’s Twitter account, which includes live tweets published during the event. Follow the hashtag #LoyalDisloyal! Below is a list of standout quotes from the event:

  • “The rise in antisemitic hate crimes, violent and nonviolent, is part of a context in our political discourse which has become corrosive to the bonds that hold us together. What’s happening to make Jewish Americans less secure is happening to America.” – Tamara Cofman Wittes
  • “The Jews are separate from Israel and the Middle East. As much as President Trump seems confused about this, that is 100 percent the truth.” – Danielle Pletka 
  • “With all our problems of antisemitism here, we are the safest Jewish community in the world… Our levels of violence are very low, but that can change. And it’s already had an impact on the psychology of the Jewish community in the United States.” – Ira Forman 

“Loyal/Disloyal?” in the Media

A recap of our event could be found in The Hoya:

Missed the event AND C-Span’s broadcasting of the event? Have no fear! A recording of the event can be found on C-Span’s website, linked here.

About the Speakers

Professor Jacques Berlinerblau is currently the Rabbi Harold White Professor and Director of the Center for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging from the composition of the Hebrew Bible, to the sociology of heresy, to modern Jewish intellectuals, to African-American and Jewish-American relations.

Professor Ira Forman is currently the Visiting Professor of Contemporary Antisemitism at Georgetown University and Senior Fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Jewish Civilization. He also serves as the Senior Advisor for Combatting Antisemitism at Human Rights First and a Senior Fellow at the Moment Institute. Formerly, Mr. Forman was the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the U.S. Department of State.

Professor Danielle Pletka is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she oversees the institution’s work on foreign and defense issues. Ms. Pletka writes regularly on national security matters, with a special focus on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.

Professor Tamara Cofman Wittes is a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution. Wittes served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from November of 2009 to January 2012, coordinating U.S. policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East during the Arab uprisings. Wittes also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as deputy special coordinator for Middle East transitions.

RSVP to “Be Strong and of Good Courage: A Conversation with Ambassador Dennis Ross!”

The Center for Jewish Civilization invites you to join us as we celebrate Amb. Dennis Ross’s and David Makovsky’s book launch. RSVP on the CJC eventbrite today!

About the book: Modern Israel’s founding fathers provided some of the boldest and most principled leadership of any nation. Now Israel needs their example more than ever. At a time when the political destiny of Israel is more uncertain than at any moment since its modern founding, Be Strong and of Good Courage celebrates the defining generation of leaders who took on the task of safeguarding the country’s future.

David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon were all present at the creation of the new nation in 1948. Over the next sixty years, each experienced moments when the country’s existence was directly imperiled. In those moments, Israel needed extraordinary acts of leadership and strategic judgment to secure its future, and these leaders rose to the occasion. The strength they showed allowed them to prevail.

Today, Israel may be on the verge of sacrificing the essential character that its greatest citizens fought to secure. This is the story of that epic struggle.

About the Authors:

Ambassador Dennis Ross is Counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process within the H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement, successfully brokering the 1997 Hebron Accord, and facilitating the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.

Ambassador Ross has worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton.

David Makovsky is the Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute and director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations. He is also an adjunct professor in Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). In 2013-2014, he worked in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of State, serving as a senior advisor to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.

Author of numerous Washington Institute monographs and essays on issues related to the Middle East Peace Process and the Arab-Israeli conflict, he is also coauthor, with Dennis Ross, of the 2009 Washington Post bestseller Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East (Viking/Penguin). His 2017 interactive mapping project, “Settlements and Solutions,” is designed to help users discover for themselves whether a two-state solution is still viable. His 2011 maps on alternative territorial solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were reprinted by the New York Times in the paper’s first interactive treatment of an op-ed. His widely acclaimed September 2012 New Yorker essay, “The Silent Strike,” focused on the U.S.-Israel dynamics leading up to the 2007 Israeli attack on Syrian nuclear facilities.

Light refreshments will be served prior to the event. RSVP is encouraged.

Any person with an accommodation request is welcome to email us at cjcinfo@georgetown.edu. We will try to meet these accommodation requests to the best of our ability.

RSVP to “Loyal/Disloyal? American Judaism in the Era of the Trump Presidency”

The Center for Jewish Civilization invites you to join us for our dialogue about American Jews in the Era of the Trump Presidency. RSVP today!

President Donald J. Trump’s recent aside about loyal and disloyal Jewish Americans triggered anger and denunciations from a broad spectrum of American voices. Trump’s remarks are triangulated against two salient features of his presidency. First, his tight embrace of the Netenyahu administration, and second, the disturbing rise of white supremacist violence directed against Jews and others in the United States. In this panel discussion, we ask some noted experts and thought leaders on contemporary political issues confronting the Jewish people to reflect on the current moment, and what the president’s “loyal/disloyal” musing portends for the Jewish American community, and the nation at large.

About the Speakers:

Professor Jacques Berlinerblau is currently the Rabbi Harold White Professor and Director of the Center for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging from the composition of the Hebrew Bible, to the sociology of heresy, to modern Jewish intellectuals, to African-American and Jewish-American relations.

Professor Ira Forman is currently the Visiting Professor of Contemporary Antisemitism at Georgetown University and Senior Fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Jewish Civilization. He also serves as the Senior Advisor for Combatting Antisemitism at Human Rights First and a Senior Fellow at the Moment Institute. Formerly, Mr. Forman was the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the U.S. Department of State.

Professor Danielle Pletka is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she oversees the institution’s work on foreign and defense issues. Ms. Pletka writes regularly on national security matters, with a special focus on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.

Professor Tamara Cofman Wittes is a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution. Wittes served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from November of 2009 to January 2012, coordinating U.S. policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East during the Arab uprisings. Wittes also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as deputy special coordinator for Middle East transitions.

RSVP to Loyal/Disloyal on our Eventbrite!

The CJC Reflects Upon the Hate Crime in El Paso

In the wake of this Saturday’s tragic shooting in El Paso, Texas, assumed to have been carried out by a White Supremacist, we think back to our conference, “Contemporary White Supremacy in America.” On April 10, 2019, Father Patrick Desbois (Braman Endowed Professor of the Practice of the Forensic Study of the Holocaust), Christian Picciolini (co-founder of Life After Hate) and Dr. Jacques Berlinerblau (CJC Director) discussed the extremist scourge in the United States. Below, we share a recording of our conversation.