Hillel to Host Holocaust Educators

By Hannah Fitzpatrick ’21, March 22, 2019
Judith Cohen and Steven Hess will speak on campus.

This spring, Ithaca College’s Hillel and Jewish Studies program will host two lectures about the impact of the Holocaust.

Judith Cohen, chief acquisitions curator of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will speak on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Textor 101. Steven Hess, a Holocaust survivor, will tell his personal story on April 3 at 7 p.m. in Textor 102. Both events are free and open to the public.

Cohen’s lecture will feature a multimedia presentation examining Holocaust photography and Jewish ghetto photography taken by professional and amateur photographers during the Holocaust. These photographs not only capture aspects of the ghetto hidden to German photographers, but also asks crucial questions about how these photographs differ from the better-known Nazi photographs.

A Harvard graduate who received her MA from Brandeis University, Cohen originally came to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1995. She has curated web exhibits and written and co-authored several articles on the museum’s collection.

Photo of a Jewish Ghetto

Photographs of WWII-era Jewish ghettos illuminate a typically unseen side of the Holocaust. (Photo submitted.)

Hess, who is a former naval officer and current photographic equipment manufacturing business owner, was born in Amsterdam on January 14, 1938, along with his twin sister, Marion. His parents had fled Germany for Holland two years earlier.

In 1943, his family was taken to Westerbork, a Dutch transit camp that served as a gateway to Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and Bergen Belsen. The following year, the family was sent to Bergen Belsen. Steven and Marion, then seven years old, were among the few children who survived.

Hess’ family returned to Holland and emigrated to America in 1947. After graduating from Columbia University in 1960, he served as a naval officer untill 1964. In 1975, Hess moved to Rochester to take over his current business. He continues to lecture on the Holocaust and teaching at high schools and universities in the area.

Austin Reid, a Springboard Innovation Fellow for Ithaca College’s Hillel, said that having these speakers on campus is important because it allows people to gain a better understanding of the Holocaust and its impact.

“Despite the ongoing witness of survivors, there are some even now who deny the historical authenticity of the Holocaust. Further, among American millennials, many do not have an even rudimentary knowledge of the Holocaust,” he said. “Speakers such as Judith Cohen and Steven Hess work to combat the pernicious falsehood and help to inform the public about the horrors which occurred in Nazi-occupied Europe.”

Hillel, which is part of The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, working with thousands of college students globally. Their goal is to foster Jewish identity, provide leadership opportunities, and enhance a commitment to Jewish life that will continue after college.