Oakton announces 2023-24 Jewish Studies Speaker Series

Oakton College Jewish Studies 2023-2024 events are free, virtual, and open to the public.
Des Plaines (Sept. 11, 2023) - As the Jewish community prepares to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 15 - 17) and Yom Kippur (Sept. 24 - 25) — two of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar — Oakton College invites community members to the 2023-24 Jewish Studies Speaker Series. The virtual events are free and open to the public, allowing attendees to reflect and learn about Jewish history and culture.

“The six virtual lectures on topics focused on the Holocaust as well as Genocide Studies, presented by nationwide scholars, all experts in their field, will empower the attendees to understand how unchecked bullying, bias, discrimination, hate, intolerance, racism, antisemitism and anti-immigrant prejudices can lead to genocide and war,” said Wendy Adele-Marie, Ph.D., distinguished professor of History and coordinator of Jewish Studies at Oakton.

To register for fall events, please visit the events page on Oakton’s website.

Normalcy and psychopathology in Germany during the Nazi era
Sept. 21, 2023, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Psychologists have contributed significantly to understanding how events in Germany unfolded during the Nazi era. These contributions include identifying psychological mechanisms in all of us that can take a destructive turn under certain conditions and helping us resist those mechanisms through our awareness of their operation during the Nazi era.

The speaker, George Mastroianni, Ph.D., a lecturer in psychology at Penn State and professor emeritus at the U.S. Air Force Academy, is a psychologist with expertise in leadership, ethical behavior and the psychology of the Holocaust. He is a co-editor of “A Warrior’s Guide to Psychology and Performance,” created on the model of two World War II works produced for soldiers by psychologists used at the Air Force Academy and West Point.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Holocaust
Oct.11, 2023, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Historians debate why President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not do more to admit Jewish refugees and undertake policies — including bombing rail lines to Auschwitz or Auschwitz itself — that might have saved lives. Could he have done more? If so, why didn’t he?

The presenter, Jeffrey Urbin, is the education specialist and director of the Pare Lorentz Film Center at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Vienna and the Holocaust: The Story of Otto Gruenbaum
Nov. 14, 2023, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Irene Wittig will present the story of her uncle, Otto Gruenbaum, a promising young pianist who fled Vienna and found refuge in the U.S., where he joined the army. He was trained at Camp Ritchie and served as an interrogator and intelligence specialist in France and Germany. A critical part of Gruenbaum’s story is his unexplained death and Wittig’s search for answers about what happened to him.

Wittig is an author and speaker born in liberated Rome to a Viennese mother and Italian father. She lived in Argentina with her mother and German stepfather and grew up in New York in a neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and fellow Europeans displaced by war.

The Genocide Paradox: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention of December 1948
Dec. 7, 2023, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
While some would argue genocide is an old practice, it is a relatively new term, implanted in our lexicon of human suffering in 1944 by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin and enshrined in law on Dec. 9, 1948, when the UN General Assembly unanimously approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. In this talk, Hilary Earl explores the role Lemkin played in the genesis and development of the legal concept of genocide and the uneasy relationship between his ideas and the practical application of the law.

Hilary Earl, Ph.D., is a professor of modern European history and comparative genocide studies at the Department of History at Nipissing University in Canada. She is an award-winning teacher and established scholar in the field of Holocaust history, perpetrator studies, and trials of German war criminals. Earl has published extensively in her areas of research. She is the author of the award-winning “Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History” and co-editor of two collections of essays on the Holocaust and genocide.

To register for spring events, please visit the events page on Oakton’s website.

I’m Not Leaving: The Rwandan Genocide
Thursday, April 11, 2024, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
For over a decade, Carl Wilkens has been sharing stories around the globe to inspire and equip people to “enter the world of the other.” He was the only American who chose to stay in Kigali, Rwanda, throughout the 1994 genocide. Working with Rwandan colleagues, he helped save the lives of hundreds. His harrowing yet hopeful journey weaves together stories of tremendous risk and fierce compassion amid senseless slaughter. In 2011, Carl completed a book detailing these days titled “I’m Not Leaving.”

Storytelling, listening, and compassionate curiosity are the interwoven elements of the work of Carl Wilkens. Along with his wife Teresa, Carl moved their young family to Rwanda in the spring of 1990 to pursue development and humanitarian work. While the stories he shares happened during the genocide, his presentations, book and documentary are not about genocide. They are about the choices people made, actions they took, courage they showed, and sacrifices they gave in the face of genocide.

Refuge Must Be Given: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Jewish Plight
Wednesday, May 1, 2024, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
The talk explores Eleanor Roosevelt’s effort to advocate for the Jews of Europe at a time when few would do so. The presenter will discuss Roosevelt’s work with Quaker leader Clarence Pickett to admit more refugees into the United States and her relationship with Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. Welles, though sympathetic to the victims of Nazi persecution, defended a visa process that failed both Jewish and non-Jewish refugees.

John F. Sears served as executive director of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute from 1986 - 1999 and as associate editor of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project from 2000 - 2007. He has taught at Tufts University, Boston University and Vassar College and is the author of “Refuge Must Be Given: Eleanor Roosevelt, the Jewish Plight, and the Founding of Israel.”

For more information about the events and speakers and to register, please go to events.oakton.edu and search for the event, or visit the sites listed above.

Oakton College's Jewish Studies concentration gives you the opportunity to explore Jewish Studies through 18 semester hours of interdisciplinary study. In addition to classes and coursework dedicated to Jewish history and culture, you'll participate in public lectures, symposia and special events. To learn more, please visit the Jewish Studies page on Oakton’s website.