By Makenzie Swift, Staff Writer
Last Wednesday was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, when in 1938 the Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses, synagogues and homes as well as arrested and murdered Jewish people. The Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center held a night honoring the victims of Kristallnacht with a ceremony and lecture by guest speaker, Victoria Barnett Ph.D.
Barnett gave an inspiring speech sharing her insight after studying Nazi Germany and living in Germany for years. She explained how as Americans and humans in general, we need to understand our history and learn from it,
“Let us also think about our place in history now and in the time to come,” Barnett explained. “Specifically, please be alert to whatever you can do to fight against antisemitism in our country, and in this moment, but broadly, please think about what kind of world you want to live in, and how you would like to be remembered a few years from now by a group of students in the room.”
Barnett continued to describe ways in which Manhattan students can aid in the discontinuation of antisemitism and hate in general as she stated,
“This is something to bring up with class,” she said. “Start that conversation. I mean, I think all of us have a responsibility to increase awareness of the importance of having a sense of moral self fulfillment and realizing that there are certain things you just don’t do.”
Barnett’s speech reminds us to speak up about hate. The worst thing we can do as people is sit back and allow for these cruel comments to be made.
“We’re not brought up, I don’t think to tell people when we’re offended, but it’s not a bad idea,” she said. “If somebody says something to look up and say we’re not really upset, or that really offended me.”
Overall, Barnett wants to remind us that it is important to speak up when someone makes hateful and prejudiced claims towards a specific group, especially with commonly targeted groups such as Jewish people.
One student, Jennifer Galicia, revealed how this ceremony impacted her.
“I think this is a very honorable and respectful event that took place here at college,” Galicia said. “It definitely transformed my way of thinking because it’s kind of like a reality check to see that nobody really speaks about this around me. If it wasn’t for me taking a class with Dr. Afridi, I wouldn’t have known about any of these events taking place here or anything related to these topics.”
Jennifer Galicia’s interpretation of this event shows how important it is to talk about antisemitism in America, especially since she was not aware of these topics until she was educated on them from school.
“I definitely feel like social media plays a big role in this because that’s what young kids are more into,” she said. “But I feel like if they [influencers] speak about this and influence young people’s minds to think about it, they will definitely be more alert to it.”
The Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Edcation center does not only speak about antisemitism, but all types of hate. Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., a professor at Manhattan College who runs the HGI, explained the importance of being educated on the hate that marginalized groups experience.
“I think if we’re educated about antisemitism or about Kristallnacht, which is what tonight is about, we kind of understand that small, even if you think of those small acts of violence, they can become national terrors for people,” Afridi said.
Mehnaz Afridi has a goal to educate people on how genocides begin, and the impacts they have on people who are victims of them.
“What I’m trying to do is educate students on this campus about any hate, but particularly the Holocaust, because I think antisemitism is one of the longest standing hatreds.”
Afridi also has criticisms for Manhattan College as a Catholic Institution, and questions the ways in which the college attempts to make all students feel welcomed and safe on campus.
“There are things that we do that we need to be self critical of that are hurtful to Jews on campus,” Afridi states, “We need to ask yourself the question, why don’t we have so many Jewish students on campus? What is it about a Catholic college that doesn’t draw a lot of Jews?”
“If we care about this history, it is our responsibility to stand up and challenge antisemitic rhetoric and actions if we seek to condemn the people who use them and to push back and show up and reach out to our fellow Jewish citizens where they need us,” Barnett said.