Talks by a former Soviet refusenik, a classical music duet featuring a pianist and violinist and an exhibit on genocide and human rights violations will highlight an upcoming weeklong conference and exhibit at NJIT.
The key exhibit, entitled "From a Crime Without a Name to Genocide," opens April 5, 2010 at noon in the NJIT Campus Center Ballroom. A two-hour conference and evening concert will follow. The exhibit runs through April 9, 2010. All events are free and open to the public. Sponsors include NJIT, The Museum of Human Rights, Freedom and Tolerance, local businesses and private donors. The events precede Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, this year set for April 11, 2010.
"It's fitting at this time of year, as we approach the spring religious holidays associated with freedom, that we explore man's inhumanity to man while teaching tolerance. As one of the nation's most diverse universities, it's not unusual for us to focus on this topic," said Donna Minnich, director of the NJIT Campus Center.
US News & World Report has named NJIT for more than a decade among the nation's top ten universities for diversity. More than 130 different nations are represented on campus. US News also ranks NJIT in the top tier of national research universities.
Through a compelling series of panels and graphic materials, the exhibit tells the story of the Assyrians, an ancient people whose history stretches back to 2,000 BCE. These people were massacred in 1933 in Iraq by the government. This massacre, which infuriated many people, eventually led to defining genocide in international law, thanks to the ground-breaking work of a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, Raphael Lemkin.
The conference will begin at 2 p.m. in the Campus Center Second Floor Ballroom. A panel of scholars will discuss genocide and tolerance in the modern world. Noted speakers will include president and executive director of the Museum, Igor Kotler, who as early as 1979 was known in the Western World as a Soviet refusenik. Also speaking are Jonathon Friedman, the director of the West Chester University Graduate Program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies; Rutgers University Associate Professor Charles Haberl, director, Rutgers' Center for Middle Eastern Studies; and Rutgers University Associate Professor Alex Hinton, co-author of Truth, Memory, and Representation (Duke University Press, 2009).
At 7 p.m. in the second floor gallery of the NJIT Campus Center, vocalist Susan Gaylord and pianist Luba Sindler will offer a classical program of songs and piano works by Mozart, Liszt, Richard Strauss and Mahler.
Lemkin arrived in the US in 1944. As a young Jewish prosecutor in the Polish court system in 1933, he became aware of the terrible Simele massacre of Assyrians in Iraq at that time. Thousands of Assyrians were killed while Iraqi authorities stood by. Lemkin asked why it was a crime for one man to murder another, but not a crime for a government to kill thousands of people. At the time, Winston Churchill called it "the crime without a name."
As a result of his work, Lemkin defined the legal concept of genocide in a Polish court that eventually became the cornerstone of modern international law. His life was dedicated to fighting against genocide and the creation and ratification of the United Nations Genocide Convention in 1948.
In 1979, Kotler was among the thousands of Soviet Jews denied the right to leave the country or freely practice their religion. He was finally able to emigrate to the US in 1987 and study Jewish history at UCLA. He later worked as an historian for Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which documents the experiences of survivors of the Holocaust.
The Museum of Human Rights, Freedom and Tolerance was established in NJ in 2009 with a mission to promote the universal message of freedom as a basic human right, educate public about the struggle for tolerance and against oppression and to help diverse communities preserve the memories of genocide and persecution that they suffered throughout history. For more information about this museum and these programs, please contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.