Holocaust Exhibit at Catholic College Run by a Muslim Woman Promotes Strong Interfaith Message

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Crux, Faith, Holocaust, interfaith, Jewish, Jews, Muslims, Pope, Pope Francis, Queens, NY

By Emily Drooby

Snapshots of Herman Ziering’s life hang on a wall in the library of Manhattan College. He’s a husband, a father and a Holocaust survivor.

“He was in the Riga Ghetto, which is in Latvia, in Eastern Europe,” explained Dr. Mehnaz Afridi. She is both associate professor of religion at the college and director of their Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith (HGI) Education Center.

At the time, Lea and her mother escaped to America by posing as Christians. Herman, Lea’s dad, eventually escaped too.

After coming to the United States, he became a Nazi hunter. He traveled from Long Island to South America to seek justice.

Herman and Lea’s incredible lives are laid out at the Manhattan College exhibit.

The exhibit was born from boxes brought to Mehnaz from Herman’s daughter, Debbie Ziering.

“You never say no to boxes, right? You never know what you’re going to find,” explained Mehnaz.

What she found was an extensive Holocaust library — moments collected throughout Herman and Lea’s life.

“I owe it to this family to do something with this material,” said Mehnaz.

So, she set up a space to display it all. The pieces are carefully picked out to make people stop, think and feel.

Debbie is amazed by what those boxes have become.

“Having other people acknowledge what my parents went though, and seeing that they contributed so much, in such a short amount of time, I was so proud of them, I miss them so much,” she told Currents News.

The exhibit is also about fighting against hate, and promoting discussion and collaboration among all faiths.

Mehnaz is Muslim, Manhattan College is Catholic and the exhibit explores persecution against Jewish people.

“I believe that education about the Holocaust is about understanding what racism can do to people, to human beings,” said Mehnaz. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Black or Muslim, or any kind of minority, but if you build up this mythology and you make them a scapegoat, it leads to murder and genocide.”

Interfaith dialogue is a cornerstone of Pope Francis’ historic trip to Iraq, where he heavily focused on tolerance, inclusiveness and human fraternity.

Recently the center was given a grant to digitize everything, so that people all over can learn from Lea and Herman’s stories and wisdom.