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Panel Discussion on the Holocaust & Pop Culture

  • Mayerson Hall 0 Hebrew Union College 3101 Clifton Avenue Cincinnati, OH, 45220 United States (map)


Presented by The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education and the

Cincinnati Skirball Museum of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

CINCINNATI—How has popular culture shaped Holocaust memory? What are the ways in which music, the media, and art forms such as photography, television, and the performing arts have addressed the subject of the Holocaust? Are the selfie-stick and Pokémon acceptable or appropriate at places of Holocaust memory? As fewer survivors remain alive, how will Holocaust memory change? Join panelists Dr. Brett Ashley Kaplan, Dr. Gary Weissman, and photographer James Friedman as they explore these questions and more on Wednesday, December 7 at 7 pm in Mayerson Hall on the historic campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 3101 Clifton Avenue.

The panel will be moderated by Sarah Weiss, executive director of The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education (CHHE). Dr. Gary Weissman is associate professor of English and Comparative Literature and an affiliate faculty member of Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Brett Ashley Kaplan is director of the Program in Jewish Culture & Society, and professor and Conrad Humanities Scholar in the Program in Comparative and World Literature at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. James Friedman is a Columbus, Ohio-based photographer. His exhibition 12 Nazi Concentration Camps is currently on view at the Skirball Museum of HUC-JIR and is the inspiration for this program. Friedman’s color photographs, taken in 1981 and 1983, make no attempt to travel back in time. Rather, they are unsettling and startling, as hallowed ground collides with modern reality. This exhibition has been described by Holocaust scholar Dora Apel as “arguably the most significant body of photographic work on the concentration camps in the post-Holocaust era…”

Dr. Gary Weissman’s book, Fantasies of Witnessing, explores how and why those deeply interested in the Holocaust, yet with no direct, familial connections to it, endeavor to experience it vicariously through sites or texts designed to make it “real” for nonwitnesses. He writes, “In America, we are haunted not by the traumatic impact of the Holocaust, but by its absence. When we take an interest in the Holocaust, we are not overcoming a fearful aversion to its horror, but endeavoring to actually feel the horror of what otherwise eludes us.”

In her book, Unwanted Beauty, Dr. Brett Ashley Kaplan asks how we can admire, much less enjoy, art that deals with such a horrific event. She questions whether finding beauty in the Holocaust amounts to a betrayal of its victims. Unwanted Beauty analyzes a wide range of Holocaust representations in order to argue that a more careful understanding of aesthetics and its relation to history can best address the anxieties raised by beauty in Holocaust art.

Before and after the program, James Friedman will offer an informal gallery talk in the exhibition space. 12 Nazi Concentration Camps: Photographs by James Friedman and related public programs are presented in partnership with CHHE. The Skirball and CHHE are participating venues for the FotoFocus Biennial 2016, a regional celebration of photography and lens-based art held throughout Cincinnati and the surrounding region. 12 Nazi Concentration Camps: Photographs by James Friedman continues through January 29, 2017. A companion exhibition, Through Their Lens: Photo Reflections on the Holocaust, is on view at CHHE, 8401 Montgomery Road, through January 27, 2017. The exhibition features photographs submitted by students, teachers, and the general community who have visited sites of the Holocaust or atrocities in Europe. 

The Holocaust and Popular Culture panel discussion is free and open to the public. Reservations are requested at 513.487.3098 or


The Cincinnati Skirball Museum, founded in 1913 as the Union Museum with the assistance of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, was the first formally established Jewish museum in the United States. Its core exhibition, An Eternal People: The Jewish Experience, as well as temporary exhibitions, portray the cultural, historical, and religious heritage of the Jewish people. In 2015, B’nai B’rith International and HUC-JIR announced the transfer of the art and artifacts of the former B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum to the Cincinnati Skirball Museum, for the purposes of preserving and displaying this distinctive collection of sacred and secular fine and decorative arts. The B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection augments and enhances the Skirball’s holdings significantly, rendering it among the most prominent Jewish museums between the Alleghenies and the Rockies.

The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education educates about the Holocaust, remembers its victims and acts on its lessons. Through innovative programs and partnerships, CHHE challenges injustice, inhumanity and prejudice, and fosters understanding, inclusion and engaged citizenship. Resources include traveling and permanent exhibits, teacher trainings, and innovative programs.

Earlier Event: December 6
Documentary - "Before the Flood"
Later Event: December 12
Interfaith Night at the Movies: ARRANGED