Speaker Biographies

Jack Bemporad
Director, Center for Interreligious Understanding

With more than 30 years of experience in religious affairs, Rabbi Jack Bemporad is a trusted resource for insight, analysis and credible information. As director of the nonprofit Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU), Bemporad is bringing people of all religious faiths together to promote honest dialogue, mutual respect and theological understanding. A Holocaust refugee from Italy, Bemporad has been at the center of many of the negotiations improving the relationship between Christians and Jews. Bemporad has served as Chairman of the Interreligious Affairs Committee of the Synagogue Council of America, representing orthodox, conservative and reform rabbinical and lay bodies with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, and the national and international branches of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Baptist church bodies.

For his efforts to foster interreligious understanding, Bemporad has received the prestigious Luminosa Award of the Focolare Movement and the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Leadership Award of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies of Ramapo College. He also recently accepted the Pave The Way Foundation's "Inter-religious Dialogue" award and Sri Chinmoy's "Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart" award. Bemporad came to the United States from Italy at the age of six. He received a B.A. degree with honors in philosophy from Tulane University. At Hebrew Union College, he received his M.A. in philosophy, again with honors. Bemporad is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Rome. He was ordained as a Rabbi in 1959 and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College in 1984. Bemporad was an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Southern Methodist University and has taught at the University of Rome, the New School for Social Research, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has lectured extensively in colleges and universities throughout the country. Bemporad currently serves as Professor of Interreligious Studies at the Vatican's Angelicum University in Rome and is the author of numerous books and articles, including Our Age: The Historic New Era of Christian-Jewish Understanding, which was published by New City Press.

Extended Biography: Meet CIU Director Jack Bemporad
Center for Interreligious Understanding

Anna Berkovitz
Survivor, Professor Emerita of Biology

Anna was born in Mukačevo (Munkács) then in Czechoslovakia in 1930. This region, also known as Ruthenia, was later annexed by Hungary, then by the U.S.S.R. and now is part of the Ukraine.

In May 1944, Anna and her parents, Elizabeth and Eugene Weiszhausz, as well as her grandparents and their extended family were deported to Auschwitz. Upon arrival, her grandparents, as well as several aunts, uncles and cousins were immediately taken to the gas chambers. Where her father, Eugene, perished in not known. Only Anna, Elizabeth and her sister Irene survived. (Historical note: Mukačevo was the only town in Hungary with a Jewish majority until 1944, when all the Jews were deported to Auschwitz by the Eichmann Commando. The Hungarian Jewish community was the last Jewish community in Europe to be subjected to deportation.)

Anna and Elizabeth were taken to Camp-C in Birkenau. To this day Anna ponders how she survived six months of brutal treatment, harsh conditions, starvation and disease there.

In November 1944, Anna and Elizabeth were transferred to a slave labor camp near Magdeburg, Germany, where they were put to work in an underground ammunition factory. Ten days prior to the end of World War II, they were liberated by the Swedish Red Cross and taken to Sweden, where they spent three months in a sanatorium recovering from malnutrition and physical and emotional traumas. Anna is forever thankful for the care and hospitality afforded them by their Swedish hosts.

In April 1946, Anna and Elizabeth emigrated to the United States. They arrived in Los Angeles pennyless and not speaking English. In order to resume her schooling, Anna worked as an au-pair for several years. During this time she completed four years of high school and four years of college, graduating from U.C.L.A. in January 1952 with a B.S. degree in bacteriology and with Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude honors. While working as a laboratory technician, Anna met Leonard Berkovitz, who was then a post-doctoral fellow at Caltech. They were married in June 1953, and their sons Dan and Kenneth were born in 1956 and 1960, respectively. During this period Anna worked part time in various cancer research laboratories.

In 1962 Leonard accepted a position at Purdue University, and the family moved to West Lafayette, Indiana. When Kenneth was in kindergarten, Anna decided to continue her formal education. She was accepted as a graduate student in the biology department at Purdue University. She was working on her Ph.D. thesis when, in 1967, she was asked to take a temporary teaching position to fill an unexpected vacancy in the department. This temporary position turned into a lifetime career of teaching, and while Anna never obtained her Ph.D., she earned a tenured position from which she retired in 2003 as Professor Emerita in Biology.

Anna's efforts as a teacher, her dedication to her students and to the discipline were amply recognized by her students, colleagues and the administration. She was selected by the students as one of the Top Ten Outstanding Teachers in the School of Science 14 times, she received the Murphy Award, the top recognition of teaching excellence by the University, and was given the Chiscon Award for outstanding teaching performance by the Biology department. Anna was elected to the Teaching Academy at Purdue and her name is in the Purdue Book of Great Teachers.

In her retirement Anna has more time to travel, attend theater, to be active in her Temple, and to winter in California. But, what she most enjoys is still interacting with young people, be it her own five grandchildren or students at the University. She currently participates in the University Honors Program, where she developed a new course, "The New Genetics - New Perspectives, New Dilemmas," which she teaches in the Fall semesters. And so life goes on.

Ali Dinar
Outreach Director, African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
President, Sudan Studies Association

Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, obtained his BA and MA from the University of Khartoum, Sudan, and his Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995. Dr. Dinar works now as the Associate Director of the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the founder of "Darfur Information Center," an on-line source for information about Darfur region of western Sudan, and the current President of the Sudan Studies Association, USA. Dr. Dinar has spoken, quoted and interviewed widely by national and world media regarding the on-going conflict in Darfur. His recent trip to Darfur was in October 2006.

African Studies Center
Darfur Information Center
Sudan Studies Association
Marion Blumenthal Lazan
Survivor, Author

Marion is author of Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story, a memoir of her family's survival at Bergen-Belsen. Marion has been awarded several Hadassah honors, including the National Leadership Award and the Myrtle Leaf Award. She has been honored on two occasions by the Five Town Jewish Council, and by the Conference of Jewish Organizations of Nassau County. Marion has been honored by the Jewish Theological Seminary, and given the Eishet Chayil Award (Woman of Valor) by the Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center. She was awarded the Community Service Award by Young Israel of Hewlett, and honored, along with her husband, at the first Testimonial Dinner of Congregation Ahavat Yisrael. Marion was made an Honorary Citizen of Peoria by proclamation of the mayor, given a special Citation by the City of Bayonne, and received a special Congressional Citation for her work in Holocaust Awareness and Education. Marion has just recently been inducted into the Bradley University Centurion Society.

Four Perfect Pebbles

Jan T. Gross
Norman B. Tomlinson Professor of War and Society, Princeton University

Jan T. Gross studies modern Europe, focusing on comparative politics, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, Soviet and East European politics, and the Holocaust. After growing up in Poland and attending Warsaw University, he immigrated to the United States in 1969 and earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University (1975). His first book, Polish Society under German Occupation, appeared in 1979. Revolution from Abroad (1988) analyzes how the Soviet regime was imposed in Poland and the Baltic states between 1939 and 1941. Neighbors (2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, reconstructs the events that took place in July 1941 in the small Polish town of Jedwabne, where virtually every one of the town's 1,600 Jewish residents was killed in a single day. Using eyewitness testimony, Professor Gross demonstrates that the Jews of Jedwabne were murdered by their Polish neighbors "not by the German occupiers, as previously assumed. The shocking story occasioned an unprecedented reevaluation of Jewish-Polish relations during World War II and touched off passionate debate. In 2004 many of the Polish voices in this debate were published in translation in a collection, The Neighbors Respond. Professor Gross is also the author of several books in Polish, the coeditor of The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (2000), and the coeditor with Irena Grudzinska-Gross of War Through Children's Eyes (1981), which uses school compositions and other documents written by children to study how children experience war and deportation. He joined the Princeton History Department in 2003 after teaching at New York University, Emory, Yale, and universities in Paris, Vienna, and Krakow. Professor Gross is the Norman B. Tomlinson Professor of War and Society.

Professor Gross has recently finished a book on anti-Semitism in Poland after World War II. His next project will concern the end of communism in Eastern Europe.

Faculty Page
Extended Interview

Karen Hirschfeld
Sudan Coordinator, Physicians for Human Rights

Karen Hirschfeld is the Sudan Coordinator for Physicians for Human Rights. She manages all aspects of the organization's programs in Sudan, including planning and implementing human rights investigations in Sudan and Chad as well as managing an on-going training grant with a Sudanese-based organization treating torture victims. She co-wrote "Darfur- Assault on Survival," an evidence-based report arguing that the destruction of livelihoods by the Sudanese Army and Janjaweed militias violates Article 2c in the Convention on Genocide, and recommends the engagement of a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur and the creation of a Compensation Commission to enable victims to return to their land and rebuild their lives. Ms. Hirschfeld also spearheads advocacy for Darfur; including coordinated and wrote sign-on letters on Darfur policy to President Bush and the UN Security Council for 11 human rights and humanitarian organizations, meeting with Congressional staffers in DC on Darfur/Sudan policy, writing 'Action Alerts' for PHR's website and coordinated meetings at the International Criminal Court, the UN and with NGOs, and student activists in New York City.

Ms. Hirschfeld, a Massachusetts native, worked in Afghanistan prior to joining PHR (from 2002-2004). The first year, she managed small-scale infrastructure projects in rural villages in four provinces for the International Organization for Migration, and the second year, she served as Deputy Director of The Asia Foundation's Elections Program (preparing for Afghanistan's Presidential election in 2004). Elections projects ranged from organizing international observers to monitor the elections, setting up a media commission to ensure media compliance with the code of conduct, conducting research on voters' attitudes towards the election, and funding civic education to teach the public about the elections. She headed up the Nashville office of the Iraqi Out-of-Country voting project which allowed Iraqi expatriates to vote in the Constitutional Assembly elections in January 2005. Ms. Hirschfeld also worked at Reebok's Human Rights Department and at the Harvard Institute for International Development. She earned a Masters degree in Economic and Political Development and Human Rights from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in 2000.

Physicians for Human Rights
Darfur: Assault on Survival A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution
Kevin L. Hughes
Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University

Kevin L. Hughes is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University and specializes in Ancient and Medieval Christian theology, spirituality, and history. He is a founding member of the Children of Abraham Institute. The editor of The Journal of Scriptual Reasoning, he is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent publications include Constructing Antichrist Paul, Biblical Commentary, and the Development of Doctrine in the Early Middle Ages, Church History: Faith Handed On, and a translation of Second Thessalonians: Two Early Medieval Apocalyptic Commentaries. He is currently finishing a book-length study of The Mystical Pedagogy of St. Bonaventure: A Reappraisal of the Collations on the Six Days of Creation. Professor Hughes received his Ph.D. in 1982 from the University of Chicago.

Faculty Page
The Children of Abraham Institute
Steven Kepnes
Professor, Jewish Studies and Religion, Colgate University

Steven Kepnes (Ph. D., University of Chicago, 1983) is Murray W. and Millard K. Finard Professor in Jewish Studies and Religion at Colgate University, where he chairs the Department of Religion. A specialist in holocaust and genocide studies and in contemporary ethical theory, he was a fellow at Hebrew University and the Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, Israel, 1993-1995. He is the author of numerous articles and books and the editor of notable collections, including "Interpreting Judaism in a Postmodern Age (New York University Press, 1996) and Reasoning After Revelation: Dialogues in Postmodern Jewish Philosophy," with Peter Ochs and Robert Gibbs (Westview Press, 1997). His articles on Jewish thought have appeared in such journals as the Journal of Jewish Studies, Soundings, and the Harvard Theological Review. He is also Judaism editor for Religious Studies Review.

Faculty Page
Sarah Powley
Educator, English Department Chair, McCutcheon High School

Sarah Powley, is the English Department Chair at McCutcheon High School and has taught in the Tippecanoe School Corporation for 25 years. She was the recipient in 2006 of a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship Award to study the causes of the Rwandan genocide and to compare that genocide with the Holocaust and other genocides of the 20th century. She traveled to Rwanda in June 2006. She has made numerous presentations on teaching the literature of the Holocaust at Indiana Department of Education workshops and at national conferences and was involved in the development of curriculum materials for The Children of Willesden Lane, a memoir of the kindertransport. She is a graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and completed an M.S. in English Education at Purdue University in 1985. She was the 1992 Indiana Teacher of the Year Runner-Up. In 1993, she received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award for Teaching Excellence, and she was the recipient in 2002 of the Crystal Apple Award from the School of Education at Purdue University.

Jerry Silverman
Musician, Musicologist, Folk singer

Jerry Silverman's musical background (including a Master's Degree in Musicology) and experience combine to make him one of America's outstanding folk singers, guitar teachers and most prolific authors of music books. He has published over 200 books, which have sold in the millions, including folk song collections, anthologies and method books for guitar, banjo and fiddle. He has taught hundreds and hundreds of people, young and old, the joys of making music on the guitar. He has performed in folk song concerts at schools, universities and concert halls in the U.S. and abroad.

He has used his extensive musicological and linguistic expertise in compiling and editing "The Undying Flame: Ballads & Songs of the Holocaust," a major work in the field of Holocaust scholarship, which contains 110 songs in 16 languages - Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Ladino, Serbo-Croatian, Greek, Norwegian, Czech, Polish, Russian, Hungarian and English. The songs include the works of concentration camp prisoners and inhabitants of the ghettos of Eastern Europe as well as anti-Fascist anthems inspired by the Spanish Civil War, Red Army songs and songs of Resistance fighters. Jerry Silverman's concert/lecture program based on the material in "The Undying Flame" presents many of these rare and moving songs for the first time ever. A CD of 14 songs is included with the book.

Artist's Website
Charles A. Small
Founding Director and President, Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy

Charles A. Small is founding director and president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy. He is also a Research Affiliate at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) at Yale University. Charles received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from McGill University, Montreal, a Masters of Science in Urban Development Planning in Economics, Development Planning Unit from University College London, and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford University. Charles Small completed postdoctorate research at GRES, Universite de Montreal. He taught in the departments of sociology and geography at Goldsmith College, University of London, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv and the Institute of Urban Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He was also an associate professor and the Director of Urban Studies at SCSU, Connecticut. He has worked as a consultant and policy advisor in North America, Europe, southern Africa and the Middle East. He also founded an independent documentary film cooperative in Montreal, and lectured internationally. Charles specializes in social and cultural theory, globalization and national identity, socio-cultural policy, racisms, including antisemitism.

Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy
Benaiah Yongo-Bure
Professor of Social Science, Kettering University, Flint, MI

Professor Benaiah Yongo-Bure, was born in southern Sudan, received his B.A. degree from Makerere University, Kampala Uganda and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is presently Associate Professor of Economics at Kettering University, Flint, Michigan. Among his other posts, he has served in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning for the Government of the Sudan; and he recently returned from a field trip to the Sudan. Several of his recent publications include: "The Economic Development of the Southern Sudan" (2003), "Towards National Integration in a Multiethnic Country: The Sudanese Experience" (1989) and "Islamism, Arabism, and the Disintegration of Sudan," Journal of Northeast African Studies (1994).

Kettering University News Article
Yongo Bure on Economic Development in Southern Sudan (video)
Yongo Bure on Education in Southern Sudan (video)
Understanding Sudan: A Teaching and Learning Resource