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Guenther-Benham to Travel to New York, Germany and Poland for Holocaust-based Contemporary Ethics Program

by Ashley Schaffner (with assistance from FASPE) | Apr 09, 2013
Chelsea Guenther-Benham, first-year Master of Divinity student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has been chosen to participate in a two-week FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics) program in New York, Germany and Poland this June. This fellowship is one of four FASPE programs, each of which uses the history of the Holocaust as a way to engage students in an intensive study of contemporary ethics in their field.

FASPE fellowships examine the roles played by professionals in the fields of journalism, law, clergy and medicine in Nazi Germany and underscore that moral codes governing these key professions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and promoting their awareness of related contemporary issues, FASPE seeks to prepare students to address various ethical issues facing their professions in the present day.

Guenther-Benham looks forward to reflection “in the places that saw some of the worst ethical failures of the twentieth century. I want to learn from history in order that I might become a person of solid ethics and integrity who is not afraid to act for what is right. This experience will make me a better minister.” She recognizes that ethical failures can take many forms. “When I consider how the clergy contributed to the Holocaust, I must be truthful about my own capacity to do evil. I must ask myself, how would I be able to know what is truly right, in a situation when the grip of popular opinion and groupthink strangles dissent? How can I act for the common good, when it is difficult or even dangerous to do so?”

This year, the program will be led by Kevin Spicer, C.S.C., James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History at Stonehill College; LeRoy Walters, Joseph. P. Kennedy, Sr. Professor of Christian Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University; and Rabbi Nancy Wiener, Clinical Director of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Guenther-Benham and the other FASPE Seminary Fellows will begin orientation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City on June 16. They will visit the Museum’s exhibits, meet with Holocaust survivors and work with FASPE staff and guest scholars. The first leg of the European portion will be in Poland. Fellows will travel to Oświęcim, the town the Germans called ‘Auschwitz,’ where they will tour the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and work with the distinguished educational staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Fellows will also travel to Krakow and Berlin. Educational workshops will take place at The Topography of Terror and the House of the Wannsee Conference, the site where representatives of State and Nazi Party agencies convened in 1942 to discuss and coordinate plans for the “Final Solution.”

FASPE’s innovative programs for students in these four disciplines address contemporary ethical issues through a unique historical context. FASPE is predicated upon the power of place, and in particular the first-hand experience of visiting Auschwitz and traveling through Germany and Poland where Fellows study the past and consider how to apply the lessons of history as they confront the ethical challenges of their profession.

FASPE works under the auspices of the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and in cooperation with the Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, Berlin and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim, Poland.  For more information about topics the students will study and to view a video about FASPE, visit www.mjhnyc.org/faspe.

About the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
The Museum’s exhibitions educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the rich tapestry of Jewish life over the past century—before, during and after the Holocaust. Current special exhibitions include Hava Nagila: A Song for the People, on view through Summer 2013. It is also home to the award-winning Keeping History Center, an interactive visitor experience, and Andy Goldsworthy’s memorial Garden of Stones. The Museum offers visitors a vibrant public program schedule in its Edmond J. Safra Hall and receives general operating support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

About Louisville Seminary
Founded in 1853, Louisville Seminary offers an inclusive and diverse learning community, welcoming students from wide ecumenical backgrounds while maintaining its long, historic commitment to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Louisville Seminary is committed to building bridges across the world's religious, racial and cultural divides. It is distinguished by its nationally-recognized marriage and family therapy and field education programs, the scholarship and church service among its faculty and a commitment to training women and men to participate in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ.

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