NACOGDOCHES, Texas — In partnership with Stephen F. Austin State University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, SFA Hillel, a student group that builds connections with emerging adults and inspires them to direct their own Jewish journey, will host the university’s first official Holocaust Remembrance Day event, or Yom Hashoah in Hebrew, on April 8 as part of the OMA’s Diversity Week event slate.
Hungarian Holocaust survivor Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth will be the event’s keynote speaker. She will share her Holocaust experience and engage in a Q&A with attendees.
Dr. Michara DeLaney-Fields, SFA’s chief diversity officer, and Rabbi Kenny Weiss, executive director of Houston Hillel, also will be introductory speakers at the event.
“The purpose of Yom Hashoah is to keep the memory of the horrific events of the Holocaust alive, and this year participants will be able to do that by listening to Holocaust survivor Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth,” said Jade Gordon, co-president of SFA Hillel, formerly known as the Jewish Student Union.
“It is important to recognize this day because it is how the Jewish people keep the memory of the Holocaust alive by hearing the stories and passing them on, especially in a time like today that has become difficult for Jews all over again because of the rise in anti-Semitism.”
Ozsváth founded the Holocaust Studies Program at The University of Texas at Dallas and is professor emeritus of literature and history and the former Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies. She joined the UT Dallas faculty in 1983, initially teaching 19th- and 20th-century literature and history classes.
“We are fortunate to have Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, affectionately known as Zsuzsi, share her personal memories of the Hungarian Holocaust with our students and community,” said Dr. Flóra Faragó, SFA Hillel advisor and associate professor in SFA’s School of Human Sciences. “Zsuzsi's story reflects what happened to my family and to hundreds of thousands of Jewish families in Hungary and larger Europe. Learning about the Holocaust will remind us how far we have come and yet how far we have to go to achieve justice, dignity and equality for all."
While known for her Holocaust classes, Ozsváth has published a number of articles dealing with aesthetic and ethical issues in French, German and Hungarian literature as well as with the relationship between art and totalitarian ideology. As a scholar, critic, and translator, Ozsváth has extensively written about Holocaust literature and the Holocaust in Hungary. Her memoir, “When the Danube Ran Red,” tells the chilling and extraordinary story of her childhood in Hungary, living under the threat of the Holocaust.
“Event participants will be encouraged to reflect on how current and historical anti-Semitism shapes the lives of Jews and non-Jews alike and learn about incredible stories of survival, loss and resistance,” Gordon said. “The hope is that this event will inspire participants to take action against anti-Semitism and other -isms that continue to impact the lives of millions in the U.S. and around the world.”
SFA Hillel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day will be held in person and via Zoom beginning at 6 p.m. April 8. The in-person event will take place in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom on the SFA campus. Following the keynote speaker, in-person attendees will be able to participate in an activity to honor the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust.
As a supplement to the event, Gordon also will host a Lumberjacks Live Q&A on SFA’s Instagram account, @sfasu, at 6 p.m. April 1. She will speak with Shirley Watterston, retired SFA lecturer of music and vocal coach accompanist, about her own history living as a Jewish individual in East Texas and personal remembrances of the Holocaust.
SFA’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was made possible through assistance from Hillel Houston and Hillel at Home.
There is no fee to attend either in person or online; however, registration will be required for Zoom attendees. To register for the Zoom event, visit form.jotform.com/210754475322150. The deadline to register is 6 p.m. April 7.
In-person attendees will be required to abide by SFA’s mask requirement and maintain a safe physical distance.
For more information about OMA’s slate of Diversity Week events, visit sfasu.edu/oma. For SFA Hillel information and updates, follow the organization on Instagram @sfa_jsu.