Ask a Curator: Bonnie Gurewitsch, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow Part Two
Today, we continue our two-part interview with Bonnie Gurewitsch, the curator of our new exhibit, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges. You can read part one here.
What would you like visitors to take away after viewing the exhibit?
My own experience of studying with a black professor at Brooklyn College in 1961-1962 was a highlight of my undergraduate experience. It was my first encounter with a black scholar, and it opened my eyes to the encounter between cultures and the pre-conceived notions people can have about each other. I saw how this played out in the Beyond Swastika story. I would hope that visitors would take away the lesson that the universal values of equality, fairness and kindness are applicable to all people.
How can the experiences of those profiled in the exhibit become lessons for present day students?
The experience of the scholars-immigration and integration into a new society-will resonate with many visitors who are themselves new Americans. Visitors might identify with the strong motivations of the students, who came from backgrounds that were deprived of material things but not of aspirations and the values of hard work. That two such different groups could come together to share experiences, skills, and knowledge and create an integrated world of mutual appreciation on campus, is a model of peaceful co-existence that would be useful today.
About Bonnie Gurewitsch
Bonnie Gurewitsch recently retired as an Archivist and Curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York City. She has been a Holocaust educator and oral historian for more than 40 years, Ms. Gurewitsch was a pioneer in the effort to develop a systematic approach to recording and cataloging Holocaust oral history. Ms. Gurewitsch lectures frequently and has served as consultant to several scholarly and educational projects, including the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg.
A SURPRISING CONNECTION
A REMARKABLE LEGACY
Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow tells the compelling but little known story of Jewish professors who fled Nazi Germany during WWII, came to America and found teaching positions at historically black colleges and universities in the South. There they came face to face with the absurdities of a rigidly segregated Jim Crow society.
Discover the connections and encounters between these refugee scholars and their students, and their great impact on each other, the Civil Rights Movement, and American society.
Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges is on display now through September 14.
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