In a day and age when compassion and community can seem in short supply, we turn to Etty Hillesum (1914-1943). In early 1941, Etty Hillesum was coming of age intellectually, spiritually and socially in Amsterdam when she began keeping a diary. Nazis had occupied Holland for less than a year, and as Etty’s external world became smaller with each successive restriction of Jewish freedoms, she carefully tended her space within, stocking it with all that she cherished and needed for the challenges ahead.
Etty once wryly noted there was so much barbed wire at Westerbork that it could be hard to tell whether one was being fenced in or out. Fittingly, her journals offer us wise guidance for crossing the barbed divisions of our own time. She demonstrated another way, a way of love that she consciously cultivated and equally consciously passed on to others in her written pages. Realizing that the struggle for inner peace is one with the struggle for justice and the end of war, Etty refused to accept escape from the Nazi transit camp and continued her search for meaning through her own reflections and in service to others.
How do we shoulder the common challenges of our times—not only with all of humanity but with the Earth itself and all life upon it? Come explore her philosophical and theological reflections to discover how Etty’s story can be a source of healing for all of us.
April 27: Etty Hillesum as Witness to Healing and Wholeness
Mary Kaye Medinger, MA, writer, editor, spiritual director and retreat leader. Following a brief introduction to the life and times of Etty Hillesum, Mary Kaye will speak of her own relationship with Etty in writing across time and space.
May 4: She Did Not Speak
Leslie Morris, Ph.D. a scholar of German Jewish and Holocaust literature, is the Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts, Professor of German and Chair of the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic and Dutch at the University of Minnesota, and former Director of UM’s the Center for Jewish Studies. She will read from She Did Not Speak, her hybrid, experimental memoir that moves between her family’s complex buried Holocaust history and a mysterious illness that came shortly after making a trip to Budapest to meet her newly discovered family.
Rabbi Morris Allen is the Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights. He began his service as the first rabbi of the Congregation in 1986 and formally retired in June 2019. In that time, Beth Jacob became nationally recognized for creating an engaged and intentional community.
May 11: Can Religion Help Heal a World Broken by Trauma? Etty Hillesum as our Ancestor in the “Qahal goyim” (sacred assembly)
William (Bill) McDonough STL, STD, professor of moral theology, coordinator of the Master of Arts in Theology program at St. Catherine University, and two-time presenter at the Etty Hillesum International Conference, will use Etty’s writings to feed our moral imagination.
This course will be held via Zoom. See program page for online course expectations and details.