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Saturday, June 10 • 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Images of Violence and of Reconciliation: Combatting Rising Antisemitism Through Community Outreach & Historical Photography

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Antisemitism has seen a consistent uptick since 2016, with a 37% increase in antisemitic incidents from '20-'21 and showed no sign of slowing as we closed out 2022.1 This presentation explores a possible route to empathy through the use of student-centered teaching focused on artworks, using an experimental form of rehabilitation as evidence. In 2019 I, along with three others, was invited to join a professorship to combat the lack of Holocaust education throughout the state of Arkansas. Through this project, taught local middle-high school teachers how to incorporate historical photographs into their lesson plans to teach valuable media literacy skills and the importance of diverse storytelling. My presentation, while drawing heavy influence from these (and other) pedagogical and research opportunities, will focus on the two month long rehabilitation program I facilitated at a local synagogue. This program came after the synagogue was victim to a hate crime, and sought an alternative path to justice than incarceration. I, along with a few other Holocaust scholars, were asked to meet with the teenager primarily responsible for the attack over the course of a few months, teaching about the scope of the Holocaust and the connections between small acts of violence and community-devastation. To do so, I hosted a workshop contrasting and comparing photographs taken of the Lodz ghetto. The first set of photographs were staged by an amateur photographer & Nazi official stationed at the Lodz ghetto, and the second by a Jewish resident who smuggled his work camera to document the atrocity, who hid over 600 images at the time of his arrest, 300 of which survived. These two men had vastly different intentions when photographing Lodz, and as a result depict contrasting and even contradicting narratives. These photographs spurred conversations on media literacy(especially relevant to today's teens as they face growing alt-right pipelines), the importance of individual experience, the breadth of tragedy that occurred during and after the Holocaust, and the many forms violence can take. These conversations then led to broader, more modern discussions of exclusion and otherness especially in terms of activism for unhoused people. I believe the program to be a great success, and a model for how artwork and community-based education can not only be a productive form of rehabilitation, but a stepping stone to deep care for the community. The child has since gone on to volunteer in his local community, and had moved from silently, passively listening to teaching me about the prevalence of antisemitism and racism in the media.
*To ensure the privacy of the synagogue, the child, and the other participants, no further identifying information will be provided. Names, should they be mentioned, will be changed, and the location will not be elaborated beyond the state, Arkansas (Arkansas is included due to the relaxed Holocaust education state requirements).
1. Brangham, Jason & Wellford, Rachel. "Antisemitic incidents hit a record high in 2021. What’s behind the rise in hate?" PBS NewsHour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/antisemitic-incidents-hit-a-record-high-in-2021-whats-behind-the-rise-in-hate. April 29th, 2022.


Bianca Littlepage

Community Scholar, Artist, Guest Services Coordinator at AMFA

Saturday June 10, 2023 5:30pm - 6:30pm EDT
TBA 207 Ryerson St, Brooklyn, NY 11205