The Study of the Shoah (the Holocaust): Complexity and Dilemmas

Rabbi Manes Kogan

This course was taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University from 2004 to 2006.

Course Materials
Holocaust Theology
Students' Contributions
Contact Information







General Description of the Course

I have been interested in the Shoah (the Holocaust) since I was a teenager. However, in the last few years my interest was renewed after my visit to the death camps in Eastern Europe in May 2000. After coming back from Poland I started to research the vast bibliography on the Shoah, focusing mainly on moral dilemmas, and analyzing first hand testimonies which stressed the complexity of the Holocaust.

During this course the following questions will be addressed:

-What is a moral dilemma?
-What can we learn from the complexity of the Shoah?
-What role did organized Jewish religion play during the Shoah?
-What role, if any, did religious faith play in the death camps?

The students will be introduced to the study of the Holocaust through documentary videos, basic texts on the Shoah and explanatory maps and sketches.

The students will analyze the contributions of Browning, Todorov, Arendt, Goldhagen, Rubinstein, Levi, Wiesel and Hilberg, among others, to the study of the Shoah.

The students will receive the visit of one survivor from the Shoah and one American soldier who was among the first liberators of the death camp of Dachau and will hear first hand experiences from them.

Finally, the students will be exposed to a singular, not very well explored, literature on the Shoah. This literature, called “Rabbinic Response (on the Holocaust)” addresses real questions from observant Jews facing religious and moral dilemmas, who looked for practical guidance from leading Rabbis, who were imprisoned with them in the camps.

Please view the syllabus for information about the class, including assignments and lesson plans.


Rabbi Manes Kogan

Rabbi Manes Kogan was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He holds a degree in Psychology from The University of Buenos Aires, as well as a Masters in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and received his rabbinical ordination from the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano, the Conservative Seminary in Buenos Aires. Rabbi Kogan is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, a graduate of the seventh rabbinic cohort of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and a member of the inaugural cohort of the New York Rabbinic Fellowship for Visionary Leaders. Rabbi Kogan is an adjunct professor at St. Johns University and serves as the spiritual leader of Hillcrest Jewish Center, in Fresh Meadows, New York, where he lives with his wife, Silvia, and their three children: Daniela, Ilan and Abby. Hillcrest Jewish Center is a traditional, egalitarian and participatory congregation, serving 400 families in Eastern Queens.

Contact Info:

Rabbi Manes Kogan
Hillcrest Jewish Center
183-02 Union Turnpike
Flushing, NY 11366
(718) 380-4145

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