In 2008, New York philanthropist Ethel LeFrak made a generous donation to Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (NCCHE) to endow The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference, and create The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars of the Holocaust Fund.
The triennial Holocaust Education Conference of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education – now known as The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference – seeks to enhance Catholic-Jewish understanding by “educating the educators” in the hope of reaching
the whole of humanity. The Conference equips teachers and faculty members, especially those at Catholic institutions, to enter into serious discussions on the causes of antisemitism and the Holocaust, and to write and deliver papers that shape appropriate curricular responses at Catholic institutions and other educational sites. The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference Endowment Fund supports the appearance at the conference of national and international speakers, sponsors the art, music or film events that accompany the conference, and underwrites the publication of The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference Proceedings.
The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars Fund provides annual scholarships to support Seton Hill University student participation in the graduate- level Catholic Institute at Yad Vashem in Israel, The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference and the Genocide and Holocaust Studies Program. In addition, The Ethel LeFrak Outstanding Student Scholar of the Holocaust Award in the amount of $1,000 is presented annually to the Seton Hill University student who writes a paper that best demonstrates a keen and advanced understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust.
We are living in a time of rising nationalism, ideological extremism, scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities, and political violence. Media are increasingly being used to promote propaganda and to deny truth. This toxic culture is in many ways reminiscent of social environment of the inter-war period in which fascism arose.
Indeed, the construct of “fascism” provides the conceptual link between the era of the Holocaust and our present time. The characteristics of fascism include:
Nationalist ideology and the appeal to an idealized past
Erosion of democratic norms, such as freedom of the press and the courts
Ideologies of hate directed at minoritized populations
The use violence to achieve political ends
Systematic employment of propaganda and disinformation
Support by private businesses and economic elites
Cult of the leader
Mysticism and supernaturalism.
All of these elements were present in the political culture of Nazi Germany, and are assuming greater prominence in many nations today, including in the United States. In conference sessions, extremism will be examined both in the period between the world wars and today. In the process, we will consider in what ways and to what degree the fascism of the mid-20th Century can provide a template for understanding and confronting extremism today.
Opening Session Agenda: