York to host major international racism conference

York University will host “Racism: Guises and Disguises,” an international conference examining the changing contexts for Holocaust and anti-racism education, Feb. 14-15.

Left: Steven T. Katz

The keynote speaker, Professor Steven T. Katz, director of the Elie Wiesel Centre for Judaic Studies at Boston University, will discuss “Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust – Prejudice and Reality” on Feb. 14 from 8 to 9:30pm.

The conference also features James Walker, professor of history at the University of Waterloo and Canada’s 2003 Bora Laskin Fellow for the study of human rights.

Aimed primarily at university students in teacher education programs, the conference is intended to help those in Germany, Poland and Canada develop curriculum responses to racism and anti-Semitism in the classroom. In fact, it will reunite 27 university students from Germany, Poland, and Canada, including 12 York Faculty of Education students, for a 10-day symposium.

The students – from Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, and Muslim backgrounds – will present the results of project work begun during a summer field study in Europe. The August 2003 field study included visits to a number of Holocaust-related sites, including Auschwitz. For details on this project, see YFile July 30, 2003.

Right: Mark Webber

“York University is a world leader in Holocaust and anti-racism teacher education,” said conference co-organizer Mark Webber. “The success of this program demonstrates our commitment to preparing teachers to lead their students towards a better future by recognizing and overcoming racist stereotypes.”

The York conference is part of a wider initiative by York’s Centre for Jewish Studies and the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES) called The Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Anti-Racism Education at York University. Jutta Limbach, president of the Goethe Institute, Germany’s international cultural agency, has become the program’s patron. (Limbach received an honorary degree from York during the 2003 fall convocation ceremonies.)

Left: Michael Brown

The program was conceived in 2001 by York professors Michael Brown, past director of York’s Centre for Jewish Studies, and Mark Webber, co-director of the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies at York. Both have taught courses and conducted research on the Holocaust and on the history and present state of racism and anti-Semitism in Canada.

The conference will take place in York University’s Vanier College. Check here for program details.