Oct. 19, 2018
Rabbi Ron Symons will be be the next speaker in the Saint Vincent College Threshold Series at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the Fred M. Rogers Center. The title of his talk is Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: 21st-Century Imperatives. The event is jointly presented with the Rabbi Jason Edelstein Chair Lecture Series. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended and may be made by calling 724-805-2177.
Rabbi Symons serves as the senior director of Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Pittsburgh. He is responsible for guiding the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement of the JCC through which the JCC and its partners redefine neighbor from a geographic term into a moral concept.
“The command to love your neighbor as yourself from the Book of Leviticus is among the foundational obligations of communal life,” Rabbi Symons noted. Rabbi Symons will explore the impact of this obligation from biblical times through today in this lecture that takes place on just the 80th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht).
On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps by the Nazis in an event later known as Kristallnacht. Synagogues were torched; homes, schools and businesses were vandalized; and more than 100 Jews were killed. The Nazis held the German Jews responsible for the broken glass that littered the streets. Kristallnacht marked a turning point toward more violent and repressive treatment of Jews by the Nazis. Less than a year later, the Germans invaded Poland and World War II began.
Rabbi Symons hopes to inspire us to work toward a day when no one’s glass and no one is broken again.
In conjunction with the lecture, Saint Vincent College will also host an art exhibition, “Beloved—Children of the Holocaust,” in the McCarl Gallery on the lower level of the Fred M. Rogers Center. The exhibit will open at 5 p.m. the day of the lecture, and will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 20 during regular gallery hours.
Artist Mary Burkett will attend the opening exhibition and be on campus through Nov. 8 to discuss her work. Referring to herself as “a complete untrained artist sitting at her kitchen table in West Columbia, South Carolina,” she was inspired to document the smallest victims of the Holocaust in a series of 27 portraits drawn in 2017.
A pediatric nurse by training, Burkett did not set out to create portraits of Holocaust victims. Searching for subjects on the internet to draw, she was captivated by the image of a little boy named Hersch, his face “calling out to me to be drawn. I simply couldn’t say no.” She later discovered the child had been murdered at the Auschiwtz concentration camp at the age of 4. That was the beginning.
In the year since their completion, the portraits have been recognized in the Congressional Record by the United States House of Representatives, and have been described by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer as “a light in the darkness.”
“They are named Beloved in recognition that we are all beloved children of God,” Burkett said. Burkett has since completed two additional collections: “Beloved: Unfinished Lives,” and “Beloved: Legacy of Slavery.” Her work may be viewed at www.belovedchildrenoftheholocaust.com.
Saint Vincent College established the Rabbi Jason Edelstein Chair in 2015, honoring the rabbi’s service to the College community over five decades. The purpose of the chair is to advance the College’s commitment to mutual understanding between the Catholic and Jewish faiths.
Saint Vincent College established the Threshold Lecture Series in 1981 when the Kennametal Foundation of Latrobe made a substantial grant to the College for the creation of an ongoing series of lectures and cultural events.
Photo 1: Rabbi Ron Symons
Photo 2: “Edith,” one of Mary Burkett’s portraits of a child Holocaust victim.
YouTube: Saint Vincent College