Monash University

Thanks 2015

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Page 12 of 31

11 We sit in a sunny foyer at Monash University's Caulfield campus where more than 1000 students have passed when studying at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC). It is part of the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies in the Monash University Faculty of Arts. Lecturer, Dr Noah Shenker, joined the team in 2012 from Ontario when the 6a Foundation and Ms Naomi Milgrom, Executive Chair and CEO of the Sussan Group, each provided a significant gift to establish the Lectureship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The program provides undergraduate and postgraduate students the opportunity to understand how the Holocaust and acts of genocide could happen. It explores the Holocaust as a turning point in human history, the causes and effects of modern genocides, and what is now being done to prevent atrocities being repeated. The course has the potential to have a huge impact on individual students' lives. Each year, more than 500 study Dr Shenker's courses. Some 80 per cent of those enrolled are not Jewish, a fact that is very important to Ms Katz and fellow 6a Foundation board members, her mother Ricci Swart and sister-in-law, Naomi Swart. "We're so fond of the program because of the huge impact we're having within and for the Jewish community but also outside the Jewish community," Ms Katz said. "The thing we love most about this course is the way it deals with Jewish history and Jewish culture and the fact that it attracts such a diversity of students. This is not just funding the Jewish community but rather, we're educating people about things we think are really, really important – the history of the Jewish people, genocides. This is fundamental in preventing it happening again." Dr Shenker believes many students are experiencing issues of genocide for the first time in his classes. "They come from different backgrounds. We have a significant number of Muslim students who come from Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian backgrounds as well as many Australians." Ms Katz was inspired by her grandfather, property developer Eddie Kornhauser, who firmly believed education improved civilisation. "My grandparents on my maternal side came from Germany and escaped the war. My grandfather lost some of his siblings but he made it to Australia where he met my grandmother who had come from the US. Five years ago our family decided to set up a family foundation to be more strategic with our philanthropy. "Monash ticked all our boxes. We tend to fund Jewish and Indigenous issues, the arts, education and research." Ms Milgrom agrees that Monash was an easy choice for her gift. "A while back I attended an ACJC lecture given by Father Patrick Desbois, a Catholic priest who has dedicated his life to uncovering the mass graves of Jews murdered in the Ukraine. His story illustrated how important one person's message can be and the impact one person can have on the public awareness. "Put simply, I wanted to support the foremost Jewish studies centre in Australia. The lessons of the Holocaust extend to all human suffering. "Every person in the world has the right to live in freedom and with dignity. The lessons of the Holocaust reverberate through history as a warning of what happens if we are not vigilant against racism and violence. I want those lessons to be passed on to a younger generation of students so that they have the tools to provide strong moral leadership into the future." Ms Milgrom hopes a wide range of students embrace the opportunity to research how societies can best prevent the violence that destroys generations of families. "I think universities are the best place to create leadership for the future and ensure that our society remains tolerant and caring of all its citizens. "My family has a long association with Monash and I am honoured to have received the Distinguished Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. "The centre itself and the diversity of its program really stood out. I see great value in the overseas study intensives – when students encounter the past and explore how memory, testimony, trauma and justice play out in post-conflict societies." For the two philanthropists, the objective is clear. Ms Katz: "Just getting some of the students to think about how they can make a change means you are already giving a gift to many more people than one. If Noah inspires one or two people to become champions on these issues, to sit at a dinner party and to bring it up, the message continues. My hope long term is that we see many, many more years of Noah's tenure and then the position continuing into the future. One of the greatest things you can do is to teach young adults to have a greater understanding of empathy and that is what Noah is doing. Getting them to look at other people and other situations using history. It's really powerful." Ms Milgrom hopes students continue to enrol so they learn "how to be responsible citizens of our global world." Meanwhile, Hayden lolls on a sofa, iPad in-hand, listening to the conversation before readily posing with his mum and Dr Shenker for a photo. A member of the next generation of philanthropists seems perfectly comfortable with the responsibility ahead. Your role in supporting the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation To find out more about how you can support Jewish studies in Australia visit

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