Rebecca Chinman ’15 and Micaela Loconte ’16 have received grant funding to participate in a conference in Budapest, Hungary, “From Kamenetsk Podolsk to Auschwitz: the International Scientific Conference Commemorating the Hungarian Holocaust.” Dr. Edward Franks ’72 provided a generous gift to The Genocide and Human Rights Symposium Series at HWS to support programming, internships and conference travel and presentations for students working in the areas of genocide awareness, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Chinman and Loconte are the first recipients of the grant, which enables them to attend the conference and present as participants of the 2014 March: Bearing Witness to Hope student leadership mission to Germany and Poland. The conference will take place from Oct. 12 through 14.
“I chose to submit a proposal because the conference is an amazing opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge from the March with individuals who are equally passionate about the topic,” says Loconte. “We will also be able to interact with individuals from not only Budapest, but other parts of the world.”
In May, 60 participants – students, alums and faculty from Hobart and William Smith and Nazareth College – traveled across Germany and Poland on the March. Established through a collaborative effort between Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski and faculty from Nazareth, the March provides members of the program with an opportunity to visit memorial sites. Survivors, scholars and mentors interacted with participants along the way to help them better understand what they witnessed and learned.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students to participate in an international conference commemorating the 70th anniversary of the deportations and massacres of Hungarian Jewry during the Holocaust,” explains Dobkowski. “As participants on the March, the students will be able to bring their unique perspectives on the importance of memory and bearing witness, on the need to not only look back in history, but look forward in engaging and reflective ways to test their commitments to justice and to working for a world free of genocide.”
Chinman and Loconte, along with Nazareth College undergraduate students and fellow March participants Quinton Harvey and Mary Lugo, will each discuss what is personally significant about the March. Nazareth graduate student in education Jeff Baxter will also present.
“The March was an unforgettable experience. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Budapest and share my experience at such a renowned conference,” says Chinman. “What I learned on The March inspired me both academically and personally. My written talk reflects this. I wanted to focus not on the content of what we learned, but on my view as a student on such a meaningful experience.”
“The March was a unique experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. It has taught me to never underestimate the human race, in both negative and positive aspects,” explains Loconte. “The March has taught me to speak out for what I believe in, and to stand up for those who may be unable to stand up for themselves. It is an unbelievably moving experience to walk with a survivor of the Holocaust where her family perished, and to hear the story of another survivor in the place he was held prisoner. Overall, the March has made a significant impact on my outlook and views of the outside world.”
Over the past 12 years, the Colleges have participated in The March five times. Each event brings together a team of participants from HWS, Nazareth College and local community members. On returning home, student participants are encouraged to become involved in campus initiatives that share the goals of The March – a commitment to identify, confront and transform situations of prejudice, bigotry and intolerance institutionally as well as interpersonally, and working for the eradication of genocidal forces in the world today.
The Institute for the Research of the Holocaust and Christianity at the John Wesley Theological College, Budapest, and the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College, Rochester, N.Y. are presenting the joint conference.