Photo by Daniel McGhee
Violinist and peace advocate Sylvia Samis encouraged open discussion on combating hate crime at the One World Multicultural Evening Feb. 15 in RUC’s Tech Pride Room
Samis immigrated to the United States when she was 3 years old with her parents, Isak Rosenzweig and Sabina Warshawsky Rosenzweig, both of whom survived Nazi concentration camps. She learned to play violin in third grade and performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1973-2015.
The assistant concertmaster emerita is an advocate for Holocaust education and remembrance and has staged concerts to raise funds for the Holocaust Education Memorial Museum. In her keynote speech she shared her parents’ Holocaust survival stories and performed music written in concentration camps and ghettos.
“We must tell their stories so it can’t happen to anyone anymore – we hope,” Samis said.
Samis shared stories of human ashes used as fertilizer for fruits and vegetables and human skin fashioned into lampshades and wallets. An estimated 15,000 prisoners were murdered daily in Auschwitz alone, she said.
Samis’ mother drew from her experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps to write stories and poems.
“To many this is history. To me this is a tragedy which I will live with my entire life,” Warshawsky Rosenzweig said in her memoir.
Samis invited the audience to discuss peaceful action to prevent the reoccurrence of genocide and hate crime. Members of the campus and community shared theories on current events such as the shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“It’s not about guns,” associate professor and George Chityo said. “It’s about what’s in the heart.”
Danielle Kahane-Kaminsky, executive director of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, warned against complacency in the face of genocide.
“Genocide doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “It sleeps and it wakes.” She encouraged students to use social media and technology to combat hate. She also encouraged students to take initiative in genocide awareness.
“We need young people,” she said. “We need fresh ideas.”
One World also honored peace activist Hector Black on Thursday night with the first ever Hector and Suzy Black Peace and Reconciliation Award. Black served overseas in World War II and said his experiences led him to renounce war and become a lifelong advocate for peace.
He expanded upon a quote by Mark Twain, “mankind is the only creature with the ability to blush.” “Mankind is the only creature with the ability to bring love into the world,” he said. “Hatred we can also bring into the world.”
He said the most difficult experience he and his wife ever faced was the murder of their African American daughter and explained that the only way to move on was to forgive. He decided to visit men in prison and on death row.
“There is a huge need for forgiveness,” he said about today’s social climate. He counseled the audience to look beyond the exterior and see the heart of the person within. “Be of good heart,” he said.
This event was the latest in a series of lectures sponsored by One World Multicultural Organization. The club began after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as an effort to encourage cross-cultural understanding and harmony.
“This was an attack on everybody in the whole world,” cofounder Ada Haynes said. “The people that were killed were not just from the United States.”
She said certain groups of students on campus became targets of harassment following the terror attack. In response, a group of sociology professors decided to form an organization to unite cultures and educate the public.
One World sponsors events such as camping and hiking trips, as well as visits to ethnic restaurants and international sports events. The organization’s annual multicultural evening is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Center Stage series.