Monday, 15 July 2013

UCU Wins Award for Holocaust Film

I am pleased to announce that a UCU Holocaust Memorial Day film, to which I contributed, has won joint first place at the annual TUC Communication Awards in the category of Best E-Communications.  

The film gave me and four other Jewish UCU members an opportunity to share our families' tragic stories with a wider public. 

The award judges were impressed with the ‘incredibly moving and powerful testimonies from UCU members’ and said ‘it is a truly impressive achievement for a trade union’. You can see the award here.

Most of my family on my father's side was killed in Auschwitz. Though it was difficult to talk about these experiences and the impact they had on our families, especially on film, it is very important to not only remember those killed, but also raise awareness about genocide, ethnic cleansing and racism more broadly. As members of a teaching union and as educators, we have a particular responsibility to stimulate thinking on these critical issues. After all, if society is to change, it has to come through the education system. I therefore hope this film is not only a fitting memorialisation of the deaths of my family members and a tribute to their lives, but also reminds us of the importance of standing up against racism, sexism, homophobia and other ideologies of exclusion.

The ceremony was held on Wednesday 10 July, and Helen Carr, National Head of Equality, collected the award on behalf of the union. Helen’s speech in full is below:

‘I am hugely pleased to receive this award on behalf of UCU but in particular for the five Jewish members of UCU who participated in the film. They are: Anita Peleg, Michael Picardie, Gail Reed, Elliot Schatzberger and Rebecca Steinfeld.’

‘UCU has commemorated HMD for the previous 3 years through a national seminar on the day. This year we decided to reach and involve more members to make this film. Including the personal family testimonies would enable our commitment to HMD to have a deeper impact.’

‘The sharing of personal histories has conveyed not only the painful loss to each family but the magnitude of the Holocaust.’

‘The testimonies take us to Germany, Austria, Poland, France, Lithuania and Hungary and later to England.    Anita’s direct family before the Holocaust was 26 members – two grandparents, 8 siblings and 6 spouses and 9 grandchildren – only 8 survived. And Michael stated that between July 1941 and December 1941 – 92% of nearly 300,000 Jews of Lithuania were murdered.’

‘UCU as a teaching union has produced an important education resource to remind us why we must always be vigilant and continue to campaign against far right movements such as the BNP and the EDL.   There have been further genocides and the film commemorates those murdered in Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur and Bosnia.’

‘Finally I would like to thank Paul Rey Burns who was commissioned to make this film. His commitment, sensitivity and creativity was invaluable. And finally I would like to thank Sharon Russell, a member of the equality team at UCU who project managed the film and provided immense support to those involved.’

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

British Society for Middle Eastern Studies awards Rebecca Steinfeld an Honourable Mention in the 2013 Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for Best PhD Dissertation on a Middle Eastern Topic

The award was for Rebecca's dissertation, War of the Wombs: The History and Politics of Fertility Policies in Israel, 1948-2010, which she submitted to the University of Oxford for her DPhil in Politics. 

The independent judges said, "This is an original dissertation that is ambitious in its scope…but it also deals with an important topic that has been remarkably little studied in this particular context…It explores a number of facets of this question that help to illuminate some of the key processes at work in Israeli politics and society, demonstrating both a detailed knowledge of these processes, as well as a sound understanding of the larger questions they raise in terms of theorising about gender politics and reproduction."

The Fund and the Prize were established in memory of Leigh Douglas, as a memorial to his life and work, after his abduction and murder in Beirut in April 1986. Leigh had lived in the Yemen Arab Republic, where he was Director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, and had taught for a number of years at the American University of Beirut. He had made the study of the politics of the Yemen the main focus of his academic interests, completing a PhD thesis at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on the "Free Yemeni Movement" in 1983, published in 1987 by the American University of Beirut Press, but was also working, at the time of his death, on aspects of Lebanese politics.

BRISMES hopes that, through the Fund and the Prize, they are encouraging the study of the cultures and societies of a part of the world which Leigh loved and in that sense are helping to continue his work.