Please join us for a lecture co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies program and the African Studies program featuring Roni Mikel-Arieli from Ben Gurion University of the Negev and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
South Africa, usually considered marginal in the study of diaspora Jewry, adopted strategies of public memorialization far earlier than other diasporic Jewish communities. This lecture provides an account of the first decade of post-war Holocaust commemoration in South Africa before the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 decisively impacted the social fabric of apartheid South Africa at large. During that period, the Jewish community’s mnemonic practice began as immigrants mourning the loss of their relatives in Eastern Europe and attempting to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, all the while confronting antisemitism from right-wing Afrikaners. Focusing on the Jewish efforts in constructing commemorative monuments in memory of the perished European Jews, since as early as the late 1940s, this lecture reveals how, through official national routes, the South African Jewish community was able to publicly mediate the anti-antisemitic message to the local white communities, while ignoring its relevance to local racism. The community conveyed messages embodied in these memorials, about the moral crisis of the Holocaust, the intensity of loss, and the savagery of racism. However, their memorials turn inward, refusing to face head-on the racism of the new regime on the home front.
Roni Mikel-Arieli is a cultural historian, interested in the intersections between Holocaust memory, contemporary Jewish history, and African studies. She is a postdoctoral Fellow and a teaching Fellow at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Mikel-Arieli is also the academic director of the oral history division at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was awarded a 2020–21 research fellowship at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem; 2019–20 Phyllis Greenberg Heideman and Richard D. Heideman Fellowship at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM; and a 2019 junior postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Holocaust Studies at the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, Germany. Her first authored book, titled Remembering the Holocaust in a Racial State: Holocaust Memory in South Africa from Apartheid to Democracy (1948–1994) was published in 2022 in De Gruyter series New Perspectives on Modern Jewish History. Her articles have appeared in the journals: Journal of Genocide Research, African Identities, Journal of Jewish Identities, South African Historical Journal, The Communication Review, and Jewish Social Studies, and she is the modern books section editor of Jewish Historical Studies: A Journal of English-Speaking Jewry.