Speaker searches for answers ‘After the Shoah’
ASPEN Carolyn Manosevitz has come to believe that the Holocaust – or the Shoah, the biblical Hebrew term that she prefers – was not an event that exclusively affected Jews. Over her decade-long course of investigation, conversation, teaching and painting, the Missouri Heights resident has seen that Christians have also suffered from the cruelty Nazi Germany inflicted. And from her personal experience, she believes that the healing process is expedited by an exchange between Jews and Christians.”Christians were wounded by the Shoah – in a different way than the Jews, and we need each other to be healed,” Manosevitz said.Manosevitz has devoted much of her life since the mid-’90s to bringing Jews and Christians together to discuss issues the Holocaust raised. As an artist, her work has been consistently inspired by Holocaust-related themes, including the slaughter of her father’s entire family in one day: Aug. 10, 1942. As an educator – Manosevitz is a visiting lecturer at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Texas – she has traveled across the country conducting interfaith discussions on the issues.
And she has brought the topic to Aspen. Sunday marks the opening of the four-day symposium, Sixty Years later: Spirituality After the Shoah, which gathers 14 religious leaders, professors, artists and researchers, Jewish and Christian, to talk about the issues that linger from the Holocaust. Sixty Years Later, at the St. Regis, is Manosevitz’s second such event in Aspen; she organized a previous symposium in 2002.Manosevitz was not always open to such a dialogue with those from outside her faith. Growing up in an almost exclusively Jewish section of Winnipeg, Manitoba, she says, “I used to cross the street so I wouldn’t walk in front of the church. I was taught to think those people were the enemy.”She was not, however, taught so much about her own family history. As a child, the Yiddish names of her father’s 11 siblings, and their offspring, were mentioned daily in her house. But she refers to these lost relatives as “invisible faces,” because her parents did not discuss with her their specific fate – being killed, along with the other 15,000 Jewish residents of Kremenets, Ukraine, in a single day, and left in a mass grave. Manosevitz puts the responsibility for her state of denial about those events on herself, her parents and their circumstances. “My family was safe in Canada. We had food, a nice house,” she said.In the early ’90s, Manosevitz began conducting interviews with the children of Holocaust survivors – known as “the second generation” – for her series of paintings, “Picking Up the Pieces.” In 1995, a friend urged her to talk to the dean of the Austin Theological Presbyterian Seminary about showing her work there. She had become passionate about discussing the Holocaust with virtually anyone who would listen, so the prospect of doing so in a Christian seminary setting was not so bothersome.”I was there speaking with a cross behind my back. And I looked at this sea of faces, and they were anything but the enemy,” she said. That feeling was cemented after her gallery talk. A German man who had seen the presentation approached her, and asked for a reconciliation. Manosevitz’s response – “Not in my lifetime” – was followed by two hours of crying.”I realized in talking to him that it took more courage for him to knock on that door than it took for me to open it,” she said.Manosevitz began teaching a course, “Spirituality After the Shoah,” at the seminary, and at Christian institutions around the country.”I quickly discovered, you cannot talk about the Shoah without talking about faith. Especially to an audience of seminary students,” she said. “The running theme is, ‘Where was God during this event?’ That’s what [Christians] struggle with, and that’s what [Jews] struggle with.”Manosevitz will have an exhibit of her work at the St. Regis, and will give a talk at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. She will also appear Wednesday, June 20, in the panel discussion “Beyond Survivor Memory: Post-Shoah Spirituality in the Twenty-first Century,” about how to think about the Holocaust in the not too distant future, when all of the firsthand survivors have died. Other presentations will include one on the sixth commandment – “thou shalt not kill” – and on the relationship between the Holocaust and slavery.Speakers include John Pawlikowski, director of Catholic-Jewish Studies at the Catholic Theological Union; Bill Leonard, dean church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School; Rabbi Mark Sack of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, in Tampa, Fla.; and Bill Leonard, a co-author of “Dabru Emet,” a call to the collective Jewish community to heed overtures for reconciliation from Christians.Manosevitz has found such advice enormously beneficial. “I’ve found it very cathartic,” she said. “I’ve found that healing can be found in the most unlikely places. I found it in the “other” – in the faith of my Christian brothers.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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