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Kupferberg Holocaust Center: National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant

This is a portal to the work produced for the NEH Challenge Grant in collaboration with the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College.

About the KHC-NEH Colloquia Series

Queensborough Community College was one of six community colleges nationwide chosen in 2011 by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to receive a Challenge Grant for Two-Year Colleges to strengthen their humanities programs and resources. The College’s Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) was at the heart of this grant and of our efforts to serve as a model of excellence in enriching students’ experiences and deepening their understanding of differences among cultures, as well as using remembrance and memory as a foundation. For more information about the KHC, please visit

KHC-NEH Colloquia by Year

2013-14: The Holocaust in a Global Context

In 2005, the United Nations unanimously passed a resolution against genocide that not only embraced the idea of remembering the Holocaust but pledged to support the development of teaching about the Holocaust, condemn ethnic and religious violence, and help prevent future acts of genocide. The idea is to take the Holocaust as an international lesson and use it to defuse global stresses and address on-going and future genocides. The mission, or common goal, is to work for a better future for humanity. This involves enlarging awareness. More conflicts are expected because of the constant pressure of economic crises, political upheaval, climate change, migration, the movements of refugees, and war. The goal was to embrace remembrance and go beyond it by involving students in the project of unlearning intolerance and committing to the idea of common shared responsibility as a tool for prevention. The colloquium was organized by the 2013-14 KHC-NEH Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Susan Jacobowitz, Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2014-15: Cultural and Artistic Responses to Genocide

This student-centered, large-scale interdisciplinary pedagogy project integrated QCC's cultural and academic resources amongst 300 students, 20 faculty members, 10 academic disciplines and 5 colleges. The colloquium both facilitated and documented QCC students' research and cultural and artistic responses to genocide (and organized hate) through work with genocide scholars, Holocaust survivors, interdisciplinary research collaborations, writing workshops, and cultural/artistic immersions. The project culminated with a student-created capstone art/research exhibit at the KHC and a music, dance, and poetry recital at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC). The accompanying library guide served as an archived content and resource hub for participating students, professors, and scholars in the pedagogy project, as well as the interested public. The colloquium was organized by the 2014-15 KHC-NEH Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Cary Lane, Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2015-16: Gender, Mass Violence & Genocide

This colloquium included events tightly linked to a newly established field of research in genocide studies: gender-sensitive scholarship on mass violence and genocide. The events had two foci, the first being how gender structures and mediates experiences of mass violence and genocide, including the nature of pre-genocidal propaganda, the agency and victimization of men and women, and the use and effects of certain genocidal tools (e.g., sexual violence, selective mass killing, and slavery). The second was how attention to gender can help to predict, prevent, and reconcile mass violence and genocide. For example, the events collectively speak to gendered precursors to (and early warning signs of) genocide, gendered memories of trauma, and gendered efforts to rebuild and restore justice after genocide. The events also offered deliberately diverse disciplinary perspectives on the topics; bringing together fifteen scholars from a range of humanities and humanities-oriented disciplines, including History, Psychology, Philosophy, Women’s and Gender Studies, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Comparative Genocide Studies, Linguistics, Political Science, Sociology, English and Comparative Literature, and Jurisprudence. The colloquium was organized by the 2015-16 KHC-NEH Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Amy Traver, Professor of Sociology at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2016-17: Fleeing Genocide: Displacement, Exile & the Refugee

This colloquium included events which sought to put the past in conversation with the present by exploring the history of genocide and refugees. The intention was to move QCC's students and community past abstract compassion, into an investigation of the reality of genocide and the trauma of displacement. The events explored past genocides that created refugee populations, and examined the challenges facing these refugee populations as they sought―and continue to seek―asylum in countries and communities that are often resistant to accepting them. Each program in the series offered a different disciplinary perspective that added to the argument that the condition of the refugee extends across several spaces of identity, being global and local, social and personal simultaneously. The series also highlighted the critical need for global inclusion, both by demonstrating the deeply multidimensional impact of the refugee experience precipitated by genocide and by emphasizing its historical and contemporaneous urgency. The colloquium was organized by the 2016-17 KHC-NEH Faculty Fellows, Dr. Aliza Atik, Associate Professor of English; Dr. Kathleen Alves, Associate Professor of English; and Dr. Mirna Lekic, Associate Professor of Music at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


Related Exhibition: The Jacket from Dachau: One Survivor’s Search for Justice, Identity & Home

In 2015, the KHC was contacted by a vintage clothing dealer about a recent acquisition of a unique garment at an estate sale. In the back of a walk-in closet, amid a variety of old shirts and vintage dresses, hung a faded striped jacket. We know now the story of Benzion Peresecki, a young Jewish man from Lithuania who wore this jacket for ten months in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany and kept it for 33 years. This exhibit tells Peresecki’s story of his immigration to the US, his legal pursuit of reparations, as well as historic photos, maps, multiple testimonies, and short films. It is a story of Holocaust survival that demonstrates the power of a single artifact to connect narratives of justice, identity, and a search for home. The exhibit was curated by the KHC's Curator-in-Residence, Dr. Cary Lane, Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2017-18: Collaboration & Complicity

The scholarship on the Holocaust has increasingly transitioned from focusing exclusively on the perpetrators of violence against the Jewish population towards the enablers of Nazi policy and genocidal aims, which include complicity and collaboration on a massive scale. Such a theme is imperative in understanding the complexities of the Holocaust as it raises accountability not only to individual bystanders who remained passive or complicit as the Third Reich started to implement genocidal policies but to larger institutions such as the governments of occupied territories in Europe, the larger international community, and institutions that were designed to protect vulnerable populations, such as the Red Cross. Moreover, the role that individuals played as either rescuers or collaborators spotlights the potential regular civilians can play in terms of either resisting forces of evil or enabling its expansion. At the heart of this theme, the question of what kind of agency individuals possess as their government tilts towards authoritarianism is paramount. Complicity and collaboration explored through a social psychological lens helps us evaluate the way that dominant institutions and situational factors impacted the behaviors (or passivity) of individual bystanders and larger communities. The colloquium was organized by the 2017-18 KHC-NEH Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Azadeh Aalai, Associate Professor of Social Sciences at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


Related Exhibition: Conspiracy of Goodness: How French Protestants Rescued Thousands of Jews During WWII

The little-known rescue in Le Chambon and its surrounding villages is one of the most awe-inspiring of World War II, not just for the courage these devout Christians displayed while protecting thousands of Jews, but for the humility with which it took place. Together, in the face of Nazi oppression, these brave townspeople of south-central France provided refuge in their homes and on their farms to those who fled there―regardless of religious or ethnic background. Despite the extreme danger of this effort, the resolute people of Le Chambon and the Plateau Vivrais-Lignon felt that it was the right thing to do, did it without hesitation, and said they would do it again. Following their own long history of persecution, the faithful Protestants of this mountainous region chose to protect the Jews, their fellow “people of God,” with inspiration and leadership from Pastors André Trocmé and Édouard Theis, who preached tolerance, pacifism, and spiritual resistance. The exhibit was curated by the KHC's Curator-in-Residence, Dr. Cary Lane, Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2018-19: Engaging with Native American Cultural Survival, Resistance & Allyship

This colloquium explored the cultural survival and resistance of Native American and First Nations people. The series included talks, film screenings, and performances with indigenous scholars and indigenous knowledge carriers as well as their allies. Speakers also included rabbis and other community members working with indigenous communities who addressed related issues such as repatriation and restorative justice. The colloquium introduced the related KHC exhibition, Survivance & Sovereignty on Turtle Island, Engaging with Contemporary Native American Art. The colloquium was organized by the 2018-19 KHC-NEH Scholar-in-Residence, Kat Griefen, Lecturer in the Art and Design Department at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


Related Exhibition: Survivance & Sovereignty on Turtle Island: Engaging with Contemporary Native American Art

The exhibition addressed the histories and present-day realities of the first people of this continent through contemporary Native American art. Turtle Island is the name given to North America by the Anishinabek, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and the Lenape—some of the Indigenous people of this region. The artists address survivance: a term that emphasizes both cultural survival and resistance in the face of hundreds of years of genocide and mass atrocities. The exhibit was curated by Danyelle Means (Oglala Lakota) and QCC Art & Design faculty member, Kat Griefen, in collaboration with students and alumni from the QCC Gallery and Museum Studies as well as KHC fellowship program. 


2019-20: Authoritarianism on the Continuum

The past decade has seen the rise and increasing popularity of right-wing authoritarian movements, parties, and regimes around the world. While many countries conduct democratic elections and their leaders govern through popular mandate, often times new and emerging leaders employ discursive, ideological, and political strategies and leadership styles that draw upon the authoritarian populism of the first half of the twentieth century. The 2019-20 colloquium, Authoritarianism on the Continuum: Complicity, Opposition and Dissent, explored current manifestations of authoritarianism and public responses voicing both complicity and dissent. The series identified unique features of present authoritarianism that impact QCC’s students and other members of our community in order to better understand and to oppose fully formed and incipient symptoms of authoritarianism. The colloquium was organized by the 2019-20 KHC-NEH Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Julia Rothenberg, Associate Professor of Sociology at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2020-21: Internment & Resistance

This colloquium focused on global constructions of concentration camp systems and the challenges that they present while highlighting acts of resistance. It emphasized comparative and multi-disciplinary perspectives through a series of programs that examined the processes, mechanisms, forms, and functions of mass detention without trial. The events also highlighted acts of personal, spiritual, psychological, and social resistance to mass detention. The colloquium was organized by the 2020-21 KHC-NEH Faculty Fellows, Dr. Amy Traver, Professor of Sociology; Dr. Susan Jacobowitz, Professor of English; and Dr. Steven Dahlke, Professor of Music, from Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


Related Exhibition: The Concentration Camps: Inside the Nazi System of Incarceration & Genocide

This exhibition surveys the scope and brutality of the Nazi system of incarceration and genocide, underscoring the horrific consequences of antisemitism, racism, and authoritarianism. In addition to the exhibit’s text, images, and artifacts, personal testimonies from local Holocaust survivors offer painful insights into these excruciating landscapes of degradation and dehumanization. The exhibit was curated by the KHC's Curator-in-Residence, Dr. Cary Lane, Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2021-22: Incarceration, Transformation & Liberation

What does it mean to be transformed? In what ways does internment or incarceration alter a person, and how does liberation and freedom exist within larger systems of mass incarceration? Is it possible to experience freedom when others are oppressed, and what does freedom look like? The colloquium explored the gradual and subtle processes of liberty and loss, the processes that constitute transformation from the state of incarceration to one of liberation or freedom, and the civic and pedagogical implications resulting from such an inquiry. It also featured events that sought to understand the Holocaust and different forms of mass confinement through the lens of transformation, whether from interned to liberated or victim to survivor. The colloquium was organized by the 2021-22 KHC-NEH Faculty Fellows Dr. Azadeh Aalai, Associate Professor of Social Sciences, and Dr. Mirna Lekic, Associate Professor of Music, both from Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2022-23: Trauma, Remembrance & Compassion

What is trauma? What does it mean to remember? What is compassion? If genocide and incarceration are crimes and practices that silence people and remove their humanity from them, then remembering is an act of restoration. In preserving the stories of those who have been dehumanized, we honor their suffering and affirm their humanity. The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center’s (KHC) 2022-23 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) colloquium, "Trauma, Remembrance & Compassion," includes events that explore remembrance as a social action that speaks back to the destructiveness and dehumanization of trauma. The series considers how to meaningfully engage with trauma, to hold space for and learn from past traumas. These programs also seek to identify ways to respond to trauma through compassion, to consider how in the face of traumas we can choose to act deliberately to alleviate suffering. The colloquium was organized by the 2022-23 KHC-NEH Faculty Fellows Dr. Angela Ridinger-Dotterman, Associate Professor of English; Dr. Ilse Schrynemakers, Associate Professor of English; Dr. Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson, Associate Professor of Communication, Theatre and Media Production; and John Yi, Lecture in the Department of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.


2023-24: Weaponizing the Past: Art, History & the Rhetoric of National Greatness

This colloquium looks back on the history of fascism in the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the way in which an aestheticized national imaginary was used as the guiding rhetoric of the Nazi party. It began with a screening of Good Morning Mr. Hitler which features color footage of a public event designed to celebrate 2,000 years of German cultural history and includes interviews with participants of the parade and their retrospective thoughts in their celebration of the German Reich. Using this film as a starting point, the programs explored how the Nazi party and other radical movements have utilized the fetishization of the past to violently erase those out of compliance with their retroactive national norm. We examine historical artifacts as representations–visual art, film, and literature–and how the iconography of these ideologies and their eras has found afterlives in neo-fascist coalitions. This resurgence of an ethos that romanticizes the past is not only present in radical circles, but has spread to the legislative branches of government, determining local, state, and national policy. The colloquium was organized by the 2023-24 KHC-NEH Faculty Fellows, Dr. Kathleen Alves, Associate Professor of English, and Dr. Aliza Atik, Associate Professor of English, at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.

Book: Humanistic Pedagogy Across the Disciplines

Cover image of book

This volume collates insights from five years of intensive Holocaust, genocide, and mass atrocity education at Queensborough Community College, CUNY, offering four approaches–Arts-Based, Textual, Outcomes-Based, and Social Justice–to designing innovative, integrative, and differentiated pedagogies for today’s imperatives and college students. It covers the theoretical foundations of each approach, and it includes faculty reflections on the programs, instructional strategies, and student reactions that brought the approaches to life across the disciplines. The book was edited by Dr. Amy E. Traver, Professor of Sociology at Queensborough Community College and Dr. Dan Leshem, former Executive Director of the Harriet & Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College. 

Click here to visit Palgrave Macmillan’s webpage for the volume. 

Click here for the library guide.