Past Features

February 20, 2007 (Vol. 5, No. 2)

English Professor Joins in Dialogue on Jewish Life Today in Central Europe

Sondra Perl
Sondra Perl
Award-winning English Professor Sondra Perl will take part in a dialogue March 6 at the Austrian Cultural Forum (11 East 52 St.) on the image and reality of Jewish life in central Europe today. The program, entitled "Why Vienna of All Places?", begins at 6:30 p.m. with a welcome from Renate Brauner, Deputy Mayor of the City of Vienna. Moderating will be Andreas Launer, Deputy Consul General of Austria, stationed in New York City.

Seating for the event is limited; to reserve a place, call 212-319-5300, ext. 222.

Professor Perl's 2005 book, On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate, documents her journey, as an educator and Jewish woman, into the land she associates with the rise of Hitler and events leading to the Holocaust. Together with her Austrian students–who are themselves teachers–she uses the tool of writing and the power of dialogue to break lifelong silences and to explore the idea of the classroom as a place "where prejudice can wither and empathy can be nourished." She has previously lectured on this topic in both Vienna and Innsbruck, as well as at the CUNY Graduate Center and other institutions of higher education in the United States.

The upcoming discussion is designed to help create a roadmap for future generations, starting with an open account of current Jewish-Austrian relations and a look at Austria's capital, which is experiencing a revival of Jewish culture.

Featured on the panel, in addition to Professor Perl, will be representatives of Vienna's Jewish community and other distinguished writers and commentators. They include Stewart Ain, Staff Writer, The Jewish Week; Ruth Beckermann, director of the documentary "Zorro's Bar Mitzvah," which will be screened after the discussion; Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg, Chief Rabbi of Vienna; Daniela Kalmar, Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, Vienna; and Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation, New York.

Professor Perl was chosen by the Carnegie Foundation in 1996 as New York State Teacher of the Year and is an expert on the teaching of writing. Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she is also the author of Felt Sense: Writing with the Body and coauthor of Through Teachers' Eyes: Portraits of Writing Teachers at Work.