Skip to Content
Survivor Suly Chenkin to share her harrowing story as part of Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week

Survivor Suly Chenkin to share her harrowing story as part of Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week

January 22, 2021 at 4:00pm

FIU will observe Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week  from Jan. 25 - 29 with  a remembrance ceremony and a series of events that will include real-life testimonials, feature films, poetic expression and special talks. 

Hosted by Hillel at FIU, the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program at the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, the commemorative week will give the FIU community an opportunity to explore a range of perspectives on the Holocaust and other genocides and mass violence. 

“While this week has been - and is still - student-facing, this year we have enhanced the programming to be more community-focused, partnering withs BHH cultural anchors like The Miami Jewish Film Festival, The Betsy-South Beach, the German Consulate and March of the Living. We are very glad to be a partner for this remarkable week of virtual events,” said Luna Goldberg, education manager, Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. 

At the heart of the commemoration is the university’s Annual Remembrance Ceremony event on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, featuring keynote speaker Suly Chenkin, a child survivor of the Holocaust. Chenkin was smuggled out of the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania in a potato sack, at the age of three, and was reunited with her parents in Cuba.  Now living in Charlotte, N.C., Chenkin speaks widely to school and community groups about the Holocaust and her experience. 

“With the increase of anti-Semitic acts and white nationalist rhetoric, it’s essential for people to see that we as a human society have been here before and we are going to continue doing this to each other until we learn how to tolerate diversity, how to speak to each other, and how to listen to each other,” said Oren Baruch Stier, director of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program and professor of Religious Studies at FIU.  

The series of discussion offers various topics of conversation, including How Native LGBTQ people (known as "two-spirit" in indigenous communities) are often forgotten in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement; Tudor Parfitt, FIU’s director of Global Jewish Studies, in conversation with international relations professor Yonas Mulat for a post-film discussion around the movie Fig Tree; and a powerful Instagram account, which tells the story of a 13-year-old Hungarian girl who chronicled the 1944 German invasion of Hungary in her diary, via modern terms and hashtags. 

“Now, more than ever if we don’t learn about the past and the mistakes of the past, we will not grow as a society and as a human race,” Stier said. “We take community engagement seriously at FIU, and FIU is a leader in thought that leads to positive change.” 

This year, FIU added various internal and external community event partners including the Miami Jewish Film Festival, The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and many others. All events taking place throughout Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week can be found at the event website here.  

“Our goal as an organization is to turn students into community leaders. We really focus on building leadership, and part of leadership is understanding the history of the Jewish people, how to learn from that history and how to use it to make the world a better place. This week is one of many programs we focus on that broadens students’ horizons through outside-the-classroom programming,” said Jon Warech, executive director, Hillel at FIU. 

Suly Chenkin’s parents smuggled her outside of the ghetto in a potato sack, just weeks before thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps abroad.