Dr. Lillian Wichinsky, assistant professor in the UALR School of Social Work, asserts that the Holocaust – which resulted in the genocide of approximately six million Jewish people during World War II – was not an isolated incident and lessons can be gleaned from the tragedy to help students better understand how discrimination and racism is everyone’s problem and concern.
With this in mind, Wichinsky invited students from her Diversity and Oppression course to join her at the Arkansas Holocaust Education Committee’s 22nd Annual Conference at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., on Friday, Oct. 18.
Three students, Amber Brossett, Kendra Glasper, and Morgan Holladay, will learn more about the history of the Holocaust and attend sessions designed especially for college students and teachers including a presentation that will address how countries in Europe view the events of the Holocaust today.
Holladay, who is also a graduate assistant in the department said, “I am most interested in hearing the stories of survivors and hearing about how people are talking about the Holocaust in relation to other contemporary human rights violations.”
The Arkansas Holocaust Education Committee has sponsored the annual conference each year since 1993 to provide professional development for secondary and higher education professionals and enlighten students about the residual effects of the Holocaust.
For Wichinsky, who will be attending the conference for the third time, the event is about more than professional development, she sees it as a way to impact her students and future social workers.
“This conference exposes them to real people who lived through this experience, people who look like them, yet were discriminated against in the most extreme manner,” she said.
Husband and wife, Aisic (Isaac) and Riva Schuster Hirsch, will share their experiences as survivors of the Holocaust during the conference. The couple were both children when they were ripped from their homes, subjected to isolation, and lost family members either through death or separation.
“As a person of Jewish heritage and ethnicity I not only have a personal interest, but I want my students to understand this was not an isolated incident. Events like the Holocaust happen all over the world all the time,” said Wichinsky.
“Our social work code of ethics demands that we work for social justice for all peoples. Conferences such as this demonstrate the outcomes when people stand by and do nothing.”
To convey her point, Wichinsky said she shares the following poem written by German theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller, with her students:
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
To learn more about the annual conference, go to Jewish Federation of Arkansas site.
To learn more about the social work program, go to UALR School of Social Work.