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Jewish Journal

USC-Shoah head named to genocide education chair

by Ryan Torok

October 16, 2013 | 10:39 am

Stephen D. Smith. Photo courtesy of USC

Stephen D. Smith. Photo courtesy of USC

As the executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation-The Institute for Visual History and Education, Stephen Smith is known for his work preserving the memory of the Holocaust.

Now, the USC adjunct professor of religion is being given a platform to promote education about crimes against humanity on an even broader level. On Sept. 24, Smith was named the inaugural holder of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) chair on genocide education. It was established in partnership by USC and UNESCO to promote research, training, information and documentation on genocide education and encourage collaboration among internationally recognized researchers and educators.

“I am a firm believer that education is the bedrock of our efforts to prevent genocide,” Smith said in a statement. “Through this partnership, USC and UNESCO are joining forces to develop the research networks and education programs essential to understand and limit genocide in future generations.”

Praising Smith’s and the Shoah Foundation’s awareness-building efforts, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said in a statement that she expects Smith to thrive as the program’s chair.

 “We anticipate that this new chair, placed under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Smith, will contribute to increased international cooperation on these matters by connecting with UNESCO’s network of university chairs and by supporting the activities of the organization in issues pertaining to the history of the Holocaust, genocide and to human rights,” she said.

Smith’s appointment is part of the UNITWIN (University Twinning and Network Scheme)/UNESCO Chairs Programme, which “enables chairs to serve as bridge builders between academia, civil society, local communities, research and policy-making,” according to a USC press release.

Established nearly 20 years ago, the USC Institute maintains an archive of nearly 52,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses from 57 countries and in 33 languages. Its collection also includes testimonies from eyewitnesses to genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia and Armenia.

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