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Speaker series to focus on suffering, loss, survival after Holocaust and genocide

| Emily Wermund

As part of his 2018-19 curriculum, Dr. Yaakov Levi, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire visiting professor and recipient of the L.E. Phillips Religious Studies Professorship, will host a guest speaker series open to students, faculty, staff and the community. The series, offered by the philosophy and religious studies department, is titled "Holocaust and Genocide: Voices of Their Families' Suffering, Loss and Survival." Many of the featured speakers are not solely from the world of academia; most have a direct connection to the history themselves.

The speaker series will be held on set Tuesdays from 6:30-9:15 p.m. Not all speakers will last the entire duration. Speakers' presentations will be in Room 310 of Hibbard Hall unless otherwise indicated. Individuals planning to attend a session are asked to RSVP in advance by email to

The L.E. Phillips Religious Studies Professorship is funded through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

Below is a comprehensive list of speakers and topics:

Sept. 25 | The Armenian Genocide: 100 Years of Denial (first half of session)
Rev. Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan and Dr. Artyom Tonoyan

Rev. Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan was born Sept. 13, 1984, in Etchmiadzin, Armenia. He graduated from the Gevorkian Theological Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin in 2007, and was ordained to the holy priesthood on July 19, 2009, by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.

Barseghyan has worked at the Inter-Church Department at Holy Etchmiadzin and served as the military chaplain for the Air Force Academy in Yerevan, Armenia. Following his ordination in 2009, he was assigned to serve as the assistant pastor of St. Stepanos Church in Abovyan, Armenia.

At the invitation of Archbishop Barsamian, Barseghyan arrived in the United States in January 2011. He completed his pastoral internship with the Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian, pastor of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of Chicago. In addition, he studied at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. 

On Nov. 1, 2012, Barseghyan was assigned as the pastor of St. Sahag Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the summer of 2016, he received a master's degree in theology from the University of St. Thomas. Barseghyan is married to Yn. Gayane Manukyan, and they have a son, Khachadour, and a daughter, Lucy.

Dr. Artyom H. Tonoyan is a sociologist of religion and is currently a post-doctoral research associate in the modern Greek studies program of the Institute for Global Studies at the University of Minnesota. He earned his doctorate in religion, politics a society from Baylor University in 2012. He teaches a course at the University of Minnesota on the consequences of the Armenian genocide for Armenian and Turkish societies. His publications have appeared in the journals "Society," "Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization" and "Modern Greek Studies Yearbook," among others.

Antisemitism — A disease That Defies Treatment (second half of session)
Steve Hunegs

Steve Hunegs was named executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas in November 2006. In 2015, he received the “International Citizen of the Year” award from the International Leadership Institute of Minneapolis. At the invitation of Adjutant General Richard Nash, Hunegs is a member of the Strategic Advisory Task Force for the Minnesota National Guard.

Before becoming JCRC’s executive director, Hunegs was an attorney with Hunegs, Stone, LeNeave, Kvas & Thornton since 1996, where he litigated personal injury, wrongful death and Federal Employers Liability Act cases. Before that he was with the Minnesota Office of the Attorney General in the Consumer Division, where he litigated consumer protection cases. Steve received his bachelor's degree from UW-Madison and his law degree from the University of Minnesota.

Oct.  9 | Discovering a Family After 70 Years! (first half of session)
Iris Tzafrir

Iris Tzafrir was born and raised in the northern Negev Desert of Israel on Kibbutz Mishmar-Hanegev, a small agricultural community about 30 minutes west of the southern Israeli city of Be'er-Sheva. She is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother, Shari, was from Gür, Hungary, and her father, Yehoshua (Joshua), was from Krakow, Poland. Following World War II, Tzafrir's  parents arrived, separately, in Israel.

Growing up in a household of two parents who lost their families and survived the Nazi death camps left strong impressions. Dealing with the horrors in her family’s past were not the only impressions left with Tzafrir.  She carries a determination to tell her family’s story and to share how she decided to use it as a place for hope for the next generation. It was Tzafrir's journey of telling her family’s story that led her to a remarkable discovery about her family. 

Tzafrir regularly speaks in schools, churches and other community settings about what it means to her to be the daughter of Shoah survivors. She has been interviewed for CBS Radio and Edina, Minnesota’s Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Days, and was featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Tzafrir has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in plant biological sciences and works in the agriculture and seed business.


Holocaust Geoarchaeology: Subsurface imaging of mass execution and burial sites in Lithuania (second half of session)
Professor Harry Jol

The presentation will show how subsurface imaging technologies are locating "forgotten: Holocaust mass execution and burial sites with case studies from Lithuania. The talk will include segments from the recent documentaries entitled "The Good Nazi" and "Holocaust Escape Tunnel." These research results validate accounts from survivors and historical documents as well as highlight how the earth sciences can aid in the growing field of Holocaust Archaeology. 

Harry Jol earned his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from Simon Fraser University (Canada) and Ph.D. from the University of Calgary in 1996. After two post-doctoral fellowships, he accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where he is presently a professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology. Harry has a broad background in the earth sciences, particularly geomorphology, stratigraphy, and geoarchaeology. His collaborative research, which includes undergraduate students, has resulted in in numerous publications, conference presentations, and three edited volumes.

Oct. 16 | Unearthing Family Secrets
Janet Horvath; with Heather MacLaughlin, pianist
Location: Phillips Recital Hall in Haas Fine Arts Center

Janet Horvath, the Minnesota Orchestra’s associate principal cellist from 1980-2012, is a lifelong performing classical musician, soloist and speaker.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, Horvath was haunted by the eerie hush surrounding her parents’ experiences. Music, a constant mollifying presence, offset the disquiet of her childhood. After decades of secrets, she was able to unearth the mysteries of her parents’ deeply hidden traumas, and since then, the burdens and responsibilities of her heritage have shaped her life. Janet hopes to counteract the consequences of intolerance, and with her new book, "Piercing the Silence: A Memoir in Three Concerts," in progress, she endeavors to stimulate dialogue about inequality and the ramifications of intolerance, especially now that the Holocaust generation is almost gone.  

Horvath continues to work with local Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors. She has consulted extensively with archivists at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and at Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel.

Horvath will present music she created in concert with her memoir. It is a 30-minute multimedia, anti-racism performance piece, in which she tells her parents’ story in verse, while 180 personal and archival photos are projected. At key moments, she plays her cello. Her hope is that the power of art will stimulate creative conversations between diverse groups.

Horvath received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, a master’s degree in music from Indiana University, and recently, a master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing from Hamline University. 

Oct. 23 | Legacies of Resilience
Elisabeth (Lis) Shapiro

Elisabeth (Lis) Shapiro was born in Zutphen, the Netherlands. She studied music and music education at the University of Toronto and completed ‎her master's degree in music education at the Institute of Education, University of ‎London.‎

Shapiro's career as a musician encompasses conducting, performing and teaching. She ‎was on the faculty at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and has taught children ‎and adults throughout her career. She researched the incorporation of music in the ‎rehabilitation of stroke patients, and taught music to children with special needs.‎

Now retired, she volunteers, tutoring refugees, new immigrants and Americans in ‎language, literacy and basic math skills, as well as preparing immigrants for their ‎citizenship exams.‎

“I was lucky," Shapiro says. "With all that my parents experienced during the holocaust, they could have succumbed to bitterness, withdrawal, skepticism and distrust. Instead, they lived with simple appreciation for the smallest of blessings, and imbued in my brothers and I a sense of gratitude, personal responsibility, optimism and community involvement.”

Nov. 13 | Beshert (Meant to be): A Love Story of Two Children of Survivors
Mort and Micki Naiman

Micki and Mort Naiman will share the personal stories of how their parents survived in labor camps, death camps and living as non-Jews. They will also share how these two children of survivors, both born in Europe, met in Jerusalem 50 years after the Holocaust. It is a story of love, survival and how kids of Holocaust survivors live their lives in the shadow and memory of the Holocaust.

Micki was born in Germany. Her parents were from Poland and survived the Holocaust as non-Jews. After the war, they escaped communist Poland to Germany. Not wanting to wait in Germany for papers to come to the United States, they moved to Sweden, where they lived for seven years. They came to Minnesota in the winter of 1954 by airplane, while the ship carrying their family household goods sank in the North Sea.

Mort was born in Brussels, Belgium. He traveled on an American Army transport ship bringing immigrants to the United States. He and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Mort received a master’s degree from City University of New York and taught public school in Brooklyn.

Mort joined The Jewish Agency for Israel after serving in the Minneapolis Jewish Federation for 20 years as the annual campaign director and then as the executive director of the federation's Community Foundation. Prior to joining the Minneapolis Federation, Mort was in New York City serving as national major gifts director for the Jewish National Fund and then as its interim national campaign director.

Mort is an articulate, energetic speaker mixing humor with passion to bring a strong message to audiences, boards and committees. Micki and Mort have six grandkids. Mort still actively plays softball and flag football.

For more information on the speaker series or to RSVP for a session, contact Dr. Yaakov Levi at