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Holocaust Center’s Message of Human Rights Is Stronger than Ever; Fall Events Feature Discussions and Films


Professor Emerita Vera Goodkin, a member of the Mercer County Holocaust-Genocide Commission, is a Holocaust survivor who regularly returns to campus to discuss her experiences with students. Another Survivors Luncheon will be held in November.

West Windsor, N.J. – As the Mercer County Holocaust and Genocide Education Center (MCHGEC), formerly known as the Holocaust and Genocide Resource Center, announces its programming for the fall semester, the center’s new director, Dr. Craig Coenen, MCCC Professor of History, says that educating students and the community about human rights and social justice is more important than ever. The center’s co-director is community member Edie Serafine.

“Our events and activities are all designed to provide a deeper understanding of the need to protect human rights and support social justice for all people. We don’t want to relive the horrific histories of genocide nor be uneducated about such practices that continue in the present day,” he said.

The center is located on the second floor of the Library Building on Mercer County Community College (MCCC's) West Windsor Campus.

Coenen notes that these topics are challenging and sometimes controversial. “Students may not have been exposed to these ideas in high school. Here, they have an opportunity to grow individually and as citizens of the world.”

The MCHGEC is filled with materials that can be borrowed for use in both college and public school classrooms. Resources include a video collection, books for elementary, middle and high school students, and college students, as well as links to numerous websites. A photography exhibit featuring Holocaust survivor stories is on permanent display in the hallway.

Participation at MCHGEC has grown significantly since its inception in 2003. In 2016-17, more than 1,000 visitors attended the center’s events, which included the annual educators conference held at the MCCC Conference Center in June.

In the past few years, the MCHGRC has sponsored lectures by historians and discussion panels on topics such as the Emancipation Proclamation, discriminatory laws, and the common elements of genocide. “Events that feature survivors, relatives of survivors, and experts on different genocides are particularly well attended. Featuring guests who are deeply invested – whether from an academic perspective or personal experience – makes for powerful conversations,” Coenen said.

The Survivors Luncheons, held in the fall and spring semesters, began three years ago. “Three or four survivors sit at tables with our students and share their personal stories. Each story is unique and powerful. It’s a memorable experience for both the survivors and the students,” Coenen said.

The center recently announced its upcoming events for the fall semester, which are free and open to the public. (All events take place at noon unless otherwise noted.) Events include the film “Only a Number,” a documentary by local filmmaker Steve Besserman about his parents’ Holocaust survival story on Oct. 5; Student Roundtable Discussion: “Fake News and Genocide” Oct. 24; the film “Tickling Giants,” a documentary by Sara Taksler, Senior Producer of The Daily Show, about Dr. Bassem Youssef (the “Egyptian Jon Stewart”) and his fight for free speech in Egypt on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in MCCC Conference Center auditorium; guest speaker Ernest Kaufman, a Holocaust survivor, on Oct. 26; Dr. Jack Tabor, MCCC Professor of English, on "Memory, Memorials, and Space and the Holocaust" on Oct. 31; Sharon Taksler, "World War II Propaganda on the Home Front" on Nov. 2; “Kristallnacht Remembrance: Discussion and Reflection on the Nazi Pogrom of 1938” on Nov. 9; Holocaust Survivors' Luncheon on Nov. 14 (date subject to change); Lynne Azarchi on "Walking in the Shoes of My Polish Jewish Ancestors"; and a Student Roundtable Discussion: “Religion as a Basis for Discrimination” on Dec. 7. See the events list here.

The center also serves as a classroom for several courses, including “Holocaust and Other Genocides” (HIS 215), a course Coenen teaches, The curriculum ranges from Nazism and anti-Semitism to Armenian nationalism, the Khmer Rouge, and African genocides. “We pay particular attention to universal themes of prejudice, racism, evil, and moral responsibility,” he says.

Coenen’s own commitment to the Holocaust Center took hold through his roots as an historian and the experiences he has had leading MCCC Study Tours to Poland with Dr. Jack Tabor, Professor of English, in 2014, 2016 and 2017. (Study Tours are organized in conjunction with MCCC’s Global Opportunities Center.)

“We toured key historic sites from World War II and the Holocaust, including the Auschwitz concentration camp. It has been a profound experience for us all. There were so many students interested in the 2017 trip that we had to turn some away,” Coenen said.

Former MCHGEC directors include the late Saul Goldwasser (MCCC Professor Emeritus of Philosophy), who established the center and directed it from 2003 to 2011, and Professor Elizabeth DeGiorgio (Associate Professor of Education/Psychology) and community member Edie Serafine, who served as co-directors from 2012 to 2016. (Serafine continues to serve as co-director.)

The MCHGEC directors and its volunteers comprise the Mercer County Holocaust and Genocide Commission in partnership with MCCC, a part of the State Commission on Holocaust and Genocide Education .

Mercer County Holocaust-Genocide Education Center

Directions to West Windsor Campus

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