By, Kelly Kennedy & Caroline McCarthy, Asst. Social Media Editor & Sports Editor
After 25 years, the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Center at Manhattan College is celebrating their anniversary in a special way. The HGI center works to eradicate antisemitism, racism and prejudice through education, and is an essential part of the Manhattan College community.
“Our mission is about creating peace,” said Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., director of the HGI center. “We really believe that we want to eradicate the suffering of human beings.”
Afridi notes that the center educates the MC community on major genocides, including the Holocaust and other contrast moments in history. The center works within the community and internationally to “build bridges” and create peace.
“In Italy, Manhattan College students were the first ones to be there for the 500th anniversary of the oldest Jewish ghetto in the world,” Afridi said. “They met the local community and got to interview local Italian students.”
Through these conversations, the center hopes to spark a realization of similarities between different cultures. The center began operations in 1996 as the Holocaust Resource Center, but in 2011 the mission was expanded to include all marginalized groups and with that, the name was changed as well.
“The most trending topic at the time was all about how Roman Catholicism is supposed to reach out to engage non-Christians, and it’s really focused on Jews and Muslims,” Jeff Horn, Ph.D., who was the past director of HGI, said. “The center was originally the Holocaust Resource Center, [which] was intended to kind of address all of these things … it took quite a while to convince the archdiocese and the president of the college that this was a very important way for the college to engage and grow and develop.”
Located in O’Malley Library in rooms 502, 503 and 504, students and faculty can come to visit to learn more about the history of the Holocaust along with other genocide events in history and the cultural impact of such horrific events.
HGI holds many events, such as informational tours and guest speaker events. These events are held in high regard within the MC community for their educational value.
Chris Belden is the student assistant to the director who finds that all programs the HGI center provides are important.
“In all honesty, it is impossible to pick just one influential program,” Belden said. “HGI has a wide variety of programs from interfaith dialogues and prayers, to conversations about forgiveness and identity, to our annual Kristallnacht lecture, and so on and so forth. Each event is purposely unique and impactful. All of which contributes to the college’s vision of social justice and the center’s mission of working towards mutual understanding and combating hate.”
After 25 years of hard work, those involved have decided to celebrate the anniversary by doing what they do best: educating. The center has planned numerous virtual and in-person educational seminars in order to facilitate conversations in our community, focused on creating peace.
The 25th anniversary was also celebrated with a gala honoring the center’s founder, Frederick M. Schweitzer, members of HGI and survivors of the Holocaust. The gala was held on Sunday, Oct. 24, and featured the special guest speaker Elisha Weisel, daughter of Ellie Weisel, the author and Holocaust survivor.
“When I started at Manhattan, there were still thousands of survivors living in the United States, and so back then there were a lot of survivors that used to be able to come to campus,” Horn said. “Those survivors are now very elderly and there are not very many left. And so they may have won, but they’ll be forgotten. And so the gala was to celebrate them, but also to celebrate the founder who is 91. And so we want to celebrate his life while he is still here, rather than after he has passed.”
With the purchase of a ticket, students and faculty were able to attend the widely successful gala either in-person or virtually. However, the 25th anniversary celebration is not over just yet, and there are still events students will be able to attend. On Wednesday, Nov. 10, the HGI center will be hosting a virtual Kristallnacht Lecture: “BOYKOTT! April 1, 1933: Spectatorship and the Exclusion of Jews from the German Community.”
Given all the HGI Center has done in its 25 years at Manhattan, it is important to celebrate the victories and honor the individuals who made the Center what it is today.
“It was truly an honor to partake in this event and see the impact and progress that this center has had over the last 25 years,” Belden said. “I look forward to my time with the HGI center and all the forthcoming amazing things the center will do.”