B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
By Brian Fitzgerald
Jina Moore knows a lot about the Holocaust -- it's her area of study at BU -- but last summer, she heard firsthand its effect on the family of Edith Richter-Levy. Left fatherless six decades ago because of the mindless hate that led to the murder of millions, Richter-Levy recalled her years in hiding in Belgium. "I kept hoping, I just kept hoping, that dad would come home," she told Moore. But he didn't.
Moore (UNI'02) was working at the West Virginia Holocaust Education Commission (WVHEC), which Richter-Levy directs. "This is by far the most meaningful work I've ever done," says Moore. "Edith inspired me." Moore, who helped establish the WVHEC, is on the organization's board of directors.
At the ripe young age of 20, Moore has accomplished a lot. In high school, she was a West Virginia state debating champion and winner of the National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award. At BU, she maintains a 3.94 GPA in the University's most demanding undergraduate program, The University Professors, which last year awarded her the Edmonds Prize for writing the best term paper in a graduate-level seminar. A Trustee Scholar, she is also president of the Boston University Holocaust Education Committee.
But Moore's finest accomplishments are undoubtedly yet to come. Recently selected as one of 80 students to receive a 2001 Truman Scholarship, she was chosen on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual capability, and the likelihood of "making a difference." The scholarship provides $30,000 -- $3,000 for Moore's senior year, and $27,000 for two or three years of graduate study. On May 20 she will join the other 2001 Truman Scholars for a weeklong leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. Moore will receive her award in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo., on May 27.
Moore has already made a difference in her home state's Holocaust education efforts. The establishment of the West Virginia Holocaust Education Commission was partly a result of her testimony before the state legislature and her lobbying at West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood's office. "The professional development that teachers experience largely determines how effectively they will teach new generations of students about the horrific results of the unchecked prejudice of the Holocaust," says Henry Marockie, West Virginia's superintendent of schools. The commission's efforts "will help ensure that teachers will address the era with sensitivity and with the commitment that those horrors never occur again."
To be sure, interest in Holocaust education isn't limited to Holocaust survivors and their family members. But how did a Protestant from a largely Christian area become so engrossed in the subject? "I read the The Diary of Anne Frank when I was eight years old," says Moore. "It deeply affected me, but I didn't really understand what the Holocaust was. I remember asking mom, 'What is a Jew?' And I had to look up Auschwitz in the encyclopedia."
Moore started collecting books about Anne Frank, whose family hid in an annex of rooms above the office of her father, Otto, during the war. Then, in middle school, when an English teacher was preparing to teach a class on the Diary of Anne Frank, she asked for Moore's help. "I wanted to be a diligent student, so I researched what happened to everyone in the secret annex after they were discovered," she says.
After being betrayed to the Nazis, the Franks were sent to the Westerbork transit camp. They were separated, ending up in the Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Neuengamme concentration camps. Otto Frank was liberated from Auschwitz by Russian troops, but the rest didn't survive. Anne died from typhus in Bergen-Belsen in 1945. "The research helped me understand what the Holocaust really was," Moore says. "I read a list of all the death camps and how many people were killed in each one. I saw the bigger story."
The legacy of Anne Frank still looms large in Moore's life. At BU, an event she organized on Anne Frank in 1999 received international attention when she brought together Melissa Mueller, who had recently published a biography of her, and Cor Suijk, director of the Anne Frank House. In 1998, Suijk released five previously undisclosed pages of Frank's diary that contained bitter observations about her parents' loveless marriage. The pages had been given to him by Otto Frank.
Moore has led the Holocaust Education Committee to become a driving force on the Charles River Campus. This year she brought several speakers to campus for Holocaust Education Week, March 25 to 31, including respected author Tim Cole, a professor at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
This semester, as part of an internship for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, Moore is teaching about the Holocaust at several Boston-area schools. She points out that Holocaust education is more important now than ever, considering the fact that as the years pass, there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors alive to tell their stories -- and that despite the cries of "Never again," the world still experiences genocide, from Cambodia in the 1970s to Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s. This fall, she is planning a presentation on the war in Rwanda with BU's African Studies Center.
"I want to address genocide -- why it happens, and what it means for those of us living secure lives as it occurs," says Moore. She says that more than 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered by Hutu militias in 1994. "Incredibly, the humanitarian intervention to save the refugees became an operation to rebuild the armies that committed the genocide," she says. "There were camps of Rwandan Hutu refugees that were run by the same militias that organized the massacres. And the majority of the people in the camps weren't the Tutsi refugees, they were the Hutu murderers. Worldwide aid flooded into the camps where these murderers were reorganizing so they could finish the job. Humanitarian intervention has to be well-organized. In this case it was botched."
At present, Moore is lobbying the 107th Congress to pass the Holocaust Education Assistance Act, a bill she says could, with modifications, provide funding and formal methodology in teaching this important subject. "Until the 107th Congress, there were no Holocaust education bills per se in the federal legislature," she says. "There had been a lot of commemorations, and the establishment of the Holocaust Memorial Council led to the creation of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., but these are acts of memorial and commemoration, and not acts of education. I wonder if maybe Congress just isn't sure how to move from memorializing the Holocaust to educating about the Holocaust."
Moore admits that she is probably pressing Congress "for more particulars on this bill than it's willing to give on any legislative bill, but I'm going to keep trying."