Saturday, September 30, 2023

Jewish scholar talks Holocaust themes

Jewish scholar, lecturer at Concordia University and former co-curator of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre Steven Lapidus delivered the third annual talk, titled “Moral and Religious Responses to the Holocaust,” as part of the Douglas R. Skopp Speakers Series on the Theme of the Holocaust.

Roughly 30 local members of the faith community attended the presentation Tuesday evening in the Alumni Conference Room of the Angell College Center.

The topic of Lapidus’ presentation rebutted a notion held by some still that European Jews might have done more to protect themselves under the Nazi regime, particularly during 1939-1941, in the years before Nazi work camps notoriously transitioned into mass-extermination camps.

As the April 12 Holocaust Day of Remembrance looms, Lapidus shared a pocketful of Jewish stories of survival, quiet resistances and attempts to supersede the war.

Lapidus read from a passage from a journal, which he called “fascinatingly heartbreaking,” kept by an unnamed young boy at the Lodz Ghetto, a Polish concentration camp for youths.
Lapidus read from the last entry of the journal, written mere days before the liquidation of the camp.

“Even if I could rob Homer, Shakespeare and Dante of their muses, would I be capable of describing what we suffer… what we are living through?” Lapidus said. “It is as possible to describe our suffering as it is to drink up the ocean.”

Temple Beth Israel Rabbi David Kominsky sat front row for Lapidus’ talk.

After white supremacist leaflets popped up on residents’ doorsteps and near Stafford Middle School in Plattsburgh in early March, Kominsky helped to organize yesterday’s We Walk Together march with with leaders of St. John XXII Newman Center, the Protestant Campus Ministry and Plattsburgh Cares.

“I think a lot of people who are using these symbols and are aligning themselves with these groups really don’t understand the history behind it,” Kominsky said.

Kominsky also said while the hateful leaflets came from anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi groups, he thinks it was more of a racially-motivated tactic meant to capitalize off of the tensions that were exploding on the PSUC campus at the time.

“We’re relatively a stable, safe community here,” Kominsky said. “It’s really important that we be able to support the much more vulnerable populations like students of color.”

Email Rebecca Natale at

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