AJC to honor Shoa commission head

AJC to honor Shoa commission head

Dr. Paul Winkler at 25th anniversary event of the Commission on Holocaust Education at Kean University in Union in October 2007.
Dr. Paul Winkler at 25th anniversary event of the Commission on Holocaust Education at Kean University in Union in October 2007.

Dr. Paul B. Winkler, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, will receive the 2010 Philip Forman Human Relations Award from American Jewish Committee of Central New Jersey on Tuesday, June 8, at Greenacres Country Club in Princeton.

Ferne Hassan, AJC’s NJ Area associate director, said he was chosen because of his 36-year-long involvement in Holocaust and genocide and prejudice reduction education. “Paul has supervised the development of curriculum guides that are used throughout New Jersey to help students understand the history of the Shoa and the need to speak out against intolerance and bigotry,” she said.

Winkler told NJ Jewish News he was surprised by news of the award. “I’m just doing my job,” he declared, adding, “I’m honored and humbled.”

Hassan pointed out that Winkler also worked with the Italian, Arab, and Amistad Commissions, as well as with the Martin Luther King Commission, and with AJC on the Visas for Life project, the annual trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, for clergy students from Princeton Theological Seminary, and AJC’s annual Ira Silverman Teen Leadership Conference.

The award he is to receive is named for Philip Forman, the former chair of AJC’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Forman went to Europe after World War II to assist in the relocation of Holocaust survivors and, said Hassan, “helped bring new life and hope to countless individuals.”

Winkler said both AJC and the commission strive to create a safer environment by reducing prejudice and bias. “In our case, it’s to help students live in a safer world,” he said. “That doesn’t just mean getting rid of guns; it’s also about preventing them from being bullied or subject to other pressures.”

Over the years, he said, it had become obvious that terms like “never again” and “unique” could not be applied to the Holocaust, with mass killings occurring in places like Cambodia, Armenia, Rwanda, and Darfur. But by making the commission’s focus broader and more inclusive, he said, it has been able to bring Holocaust education to a far wider and more receptive audience.

He has sought as often as possible to bring students together with Holocaust survivors, he said, to give them the benefit — while it is still possible — of hearing first-hand experiences. The most effective education, engages “the head, the heart, and the hands,” so students have also been encouraged to get actively involved in raising funds and organizing prejudice-reduction projects. “Kids in New Jersey have been terrific,” Winkler said.

The keynote address at the June 8 event will be delivered by Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of International Jewish Affairs for AJC. The chairs are Kathy Ales, Richard Levine and Georgeanne Moss, all of Princeton.

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