USC Shoah Foundation–the Institute for Visual History and Education welcomed Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff on June 8 to the institute’s global headquarters on the campus of the University of Southern California.
Emhoff’s visit included a conversation with the interactive biography of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter, part of the “Dimensions in Testimony” program that enables visitors to ask questions to specially-recorded interactive testimonies of Holocaust survivors and hear real-time responses in lifelike conversation. Minutes later, Emhoff spoke with Gutter live by videoconference from his home.
Emhoff, who is married to Vice President Kamala Harris, is a graduate of USC Gould School of Law. He is the first Jewish spouse to serve in the White House and the country’s first second gentleman. In his role, he has kept his Jewish heritage and focus on Jewish issues at the forefront, holding a seder and hanging a mezuzah on the front door of the vice president’s residence for the first time. Emhoff has also devoted time to engaging with Jewish and other faith-based individuals and groups to work toward the administration’s goals of strengthening religious tolerance.
Emhoff met Kori Street, interim Finci Viterbi Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation, in the George and Irina Schaeffer Hall for Genocide Studies, where they viewed a recorded testimony from Pilzno, Poland, the town where Emhoff’s family originated prior to immigrating to the United States. Emhoff viewed the testimony of Helena Horowitz, a Holocaust survivor from Pilzno who concealed her Jewish identity as a child to save her life, and who ultimately settled in New Jersey after the Holocaust. Street also stressed USC Shoah Foundation’s mission and global work of countering hate through testimony.
“We feel honored to have hosted the second gentleman and encouraged by his words of support as we work to counter antisemitism and other forms of hatred around the world with testimony,” Street said.
Emhoff witnessed the “Dimensions in Testimony” installation featuring Gutter’s interactive biography. Street and Seline Hamelians, a rising senior at Crescenta Valley High School enrolled in the William P. Lauder Junior Internship Program, introduced Emhoff to the interactive biography and engaged in a conversation.
Sam Gustman, chief technology officer for USC Shoah Foundation, discussed technological innovations and the potential for technologies like those used in “Dimensions in Testimony” to be expanded to larger audiences in the future. Holocaust Museum L.A. currently offers visitors the opportunity to view a “Dimensions in Testimony” program.
Emhoff also joined Street and Pedro Noguera, Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, for a video conference with Gutter
“I love your message of unity,” Emhoff told Gutter. “We all need to stand together and stand united against this epidemic of hate.”
For information about “Dimensions in Testimony,” visit sfi.usc.edu/dit.
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