Foxman set to come to St. Louis

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

The public will have the chance to hear from and meet with Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, during his three-day visit to St. Louis this week.

Foxman will speak on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at Webster University, in the Sunnen Lounge of the University Center. Foxman’s talk, “The Passion of Leadership,” kicks off the 2007 Success to Significance Speakers Series held by Webster University’s School of Business and Technology.

On Friday, Feb. 16, Foxman will speak from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the board room of the Jewish Federation’s Kopolow Building, during “A Conversation With Abe Foxman,” held by the ADL and the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

Both talks are free and open to the public.

Karen Aroesty, regional director of the ADL-Missouri/Southern Illinois, said Foxman’s talk on Friday would address the subject of Holocaust education.

Aroesty said the recently-released book Antisemitism Today: How It Is the Same, How It is Different, and How to Fight It, by Kenneth Stern, an anti-Semitism and extremism expert with the American Jewish Committee, raised questions about the effectiveness of teaching the Holocaust in order to combat bias and anti-Semitism. In the book, Stern argues, “There is simply no research-based proof that Holocaust education is an antidote to anti-Semitism. This solution is merely asserted and assumed to work.”

Aroesty said Foxman will talk about the importance of Holocaust education, and argue that it is effective in helping fight anti-Semitism.

“With the work we’re doing here with the Holocaust Museum, bringing in 25,000 to 30,000 kids from the region each year, and with the police education programs we’re doing, it clearly is working, even if there isn’t easily accessible data to prove it,” Aroesty said.

On Saturday night, Foxman will take part in a fundraiser for the ADL at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. After the symphony performs its 8 p.m. concert of all-Russian composers (Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov and Scriabin), Foxman will be on hand for a “Meet the Artist” dessert reception in the Grand Lobby with pianist Stephen Hough and conductor David Robertson. For tickets, contact the ADL at 314-432-6868. Aroesty said Foxman is a “remarkable” public speaker, with a true passion for the work he has done.

“Abe speaks from the heart. He has lived this stuff for so many years that in some ways you can’t separate him as an advocate and as a person from the issues he represents,” she said.

Aroesty said Foxman’s last visit to St. Louis was in 2002. In September 2006, he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a dinner held by Interfaith Partnership to mark its twentieth anniversary. Although Foxman had to cancel the appearance, about a dozen people gathered outside the hotel where the dinner took place to protest the organization’s choice of Foxman as speaker.

Aroesty said while “controversy periodically follows Abe,” she does not anticipate any protests of Foxman’s visit. Foxman has worked for the ADL since 1965, and has been national director since 1987.

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