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The Holocaust remembrance lecture held at the University of Zagreb

On Thursday, 4 May 2023, at the Aula Magna at the Rectorate of the University of Zagreb, a lecture titled “Reflective Culture of Holocaust Remembrance (RCoHR) – An Innovative Approach for Coping with a National Trauma in a Diverse Settings was held by prof. Zehavit Gross, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Education at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. The lecture was given as part of her visit to the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb.

During the lecture, Professor Gross presented the project of the same name, funded by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF). The project’s aim is to investigate how the memory of the Holocaust is taught and transferred to students in different educational institutions within the Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. What is also analysed are the ways in which the so-called “Reflective Culture of Holocaust Remembrance – RcoHR” can be nurtured in the Israeli (both Arab and Jewish) educational system and whether and how it can be implemented as an innovative theoretical and practical approach in dealing with different national traumas in other contexts and places. "This innovative model, which was designed and implemented with the idea of reinforcing the ‘Holocaust Education’ can be further developed into the so-called ‘Peace Education’, a special approach forming an important part of the educational process in general", Professor Gross pointed out.

The event began with welcoming speeches by the Rector of the University of Zagreb Prof. Stjepan Lakušić, PhD, Vice-rector for International and Inter-institutional Cooperation Prof. Jurica Pavičić, PhD, and Dean of the Faculty of Teacher Education Prof. Siniša Opić, PhD.

Wishing a welcome to Professor Gross to the University of Zagreb, Rector Lakušić remarked that the lecture coincides with the Republic of Croatia's presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). In March 2023, the Senate of the University of Zagreb, alongside other Croatian higher education institutions, accepted the declaration on holocaust remembrance, thus confirming the commitment to promoting education, remembering, and research on the Holocaust both internationally and at institutional levels in various countries. "This Declaration is particularly important because it promotes tolerance, democracy and human rights and fights against all forms of discrimination. We must work together to build a better future, a better society, an inclusive society, in which the lessons of the past are not forgotten," emphasized Rector Lakušić.

Vice-rector Pavičić highlighted the University of Zagreb and its constituent units’ successful cooperation with the Israeli higher education institutions, established through institutional agreements. Markedly good university relations have been achieved in the technical and biomedical fields. The vice-rector also announced that Prof. Erik Cohen, professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will be awarded an honorary doctorate, with the ceremony taking place on May 15, 2023.

Dean of the Faculty of Teacher Education, UniZG, Prof. Siniša Opić, PhD, applauded the cooperation with Professor Gross and the Faculty of Education at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, especially in regard to the Reflective Culture of Holocaust Remembrance module and the so-called Peace Education.

Alongside the University of Zagreb’s vice-rectors Prof. Boris Brkljačić, PhD, Prof. Dubravko Majetić, PhD, and Prof. Tomislav Bolanča, PhD, the lecture was attended by the Director of the Education and Teacher Training Agency (Agencija za odgoj i obrazovanje) Dubravka Brezak Stamać, PhD, Honorary President of the Croatian-Israeli Business Club (CIBC) Prof. Dragan Primorac, PhD, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Zagreb Luciano Moše Prelević, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Education, Bar-Ilan University Prof. Rachel Schiff, PhD, deans of the University of Zagreb’s constituents, and other professors and students.

In addition to her duties as Dean of the Faculty of Education at Bar-Ilan University, Professor Zehavit Gross also holds the position of UNESCO Chair in Education for Human Values, Tolerance Democracy and Peace. She is also the head of the Sal Van Gelder Center for Holocaust Instruction & Research. Her areas of specialization are interfaith and peace education, and Holocaust education. In 2016, she was invited to the United Nations as a panellist at a special briefing on the future of Holocaust education around the world. She is the author and editor of numerous articles and books as well as the winner of many domestic and international awards.

Professor Gross visited the University of Zagreb and received a grant as part of the European Erasmus+ mobility programme for teaching staff between the University of Zagreb and partner countries of the European Union. The project is coordinated by the University of Zagreb and the Central Office for International Cooperation, with the Faculty of Teacher Education participating on the academic end. Professor Schiff also came on a staff visit as a grant recipient under the same programme.