Carolyn Manosevitz is a lecturer in spirituality and teaches the course Spirituality and the Holocaust during the January term.

Art, Spirituality, and the Other

In October 1995 I had an exhibit of my Holocaust-related art at Austin Seminary. My accompanying gallery talk took place in the chapel. It was the second time in my life I had been in a Christian sanctuary. As a child of Jewish Ukranian immigrants to Canada, I had been taught that anyone who was not Jewish was the enemy. The people in the audience that day at Austin Seminary seemed anything but my enemy. Rather, they were compassionate and welcoming.

A few days later, Bob Shelton, the dean at the time, called me and told me he had a student in his office who had wanted to talk to me at the opening reception, but was too afraid to do so. Bob asked if I would meet with this student.

Dieter Heinzl was from Nuremberg, Germany. His parents refused to speak to him about the War. Meeting with Dieter was a turning point in my journey. I learned the danger of generalization. Prior to that meeting, I hated everyone and everything German. However, Dieter was an example of the guilt that many present day Germans bear for the sins of their grandparents.

Our encounter was healing for both of us. Today our enduring friendship is, I believe, a testimony to our commitment for reconciliation. It continues to be a source of healing for us both.

I began teaching at Austin Seminary in 1996. More than a decade later, I am still a visiting lecturer teaching my class Spirituality and the Holocaust. As a result of this experience, I have not only become a Holocaust scholar, I have become passionate about the Judeo/Christian dialogue. Each time I teach my class, I begin with the words: ‘After the Shoah,* the Jewish people are still wounded. We need the Christian world to help us heal. Each time I teach my course, I heal just a little bit more.

My father was the youngest and only survivor in a large Ukrainian Jewish family. All of his siblings, their spouses, and children were murdered 10 August, 1942, in Kremenets, Ukraine. Because my parents were safe in Canada during the war, I never realized the effect of that event on my family. It was not until I began delving into Holocaust research and through my art, portraying the affects of that event on our society, that I began to see my own family’s connection to the volcanic rupture we call the Shoah.

It was not until I began teaching my class at Austin Seminary that I began to develop my personal concept of healing. It was not until I began to further explore the Holocaust, that I became aware of the collective woundedness of the Jewish people and the devastation that event has wrought on our world.

By hiring me in 1996, Bob Shelton became one of my angels. Trained as a painter, I backed into the world of theology when I began teaching at Austin Seminary. It was my course at Austin Seminary that first made me realize that healing can be found in the most unlikely of places. At Austin Seminary, I found it in the face of the other—my seminary students. We come together face to face. We come from different faith traditions. And yet when we come together in an arena of honesty, we see in each other, our own vulnerability, our own fears. Noted twentieth-century Jewish theologian Emmanuel Levinas explains encountering the other as reminiscence, “and in this sense knowledge never encounters anything truly other in the world.”  I have come to recognize that dialogue with and learning about the other only serves to strengthen one’s own faith.

Brethren Again a painting inspired by Carolyne's tenure at Austin Seminary

My students and I struggle to make sense of the Shoah. We ask difficult and painful questions for which there are no answers: Where was G-d? Where was the church? Where was humanity? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, himself a survivor, says, “The question to be asked about Auschwitz is not where was G-d, but where was man.”

In searching together for answers to these unanswerable questions, a bond is formed between us—we become “brethren again.”

During the course curriculum, I present a section on the Righteous Christians, those who saved Jews during the Shoah. I call them “the light” in all that darkness. Righteous Christians are a reminder that we always have a choice. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel reminds us that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

Bob Shelton in an essay “Education and Transformation,” says that my course at Austin Seminary has transformed both my students and myself. For my students, it has caused them to reflect and contemplate on the phenomena of faith and evil. For me, it has reminded me that “the other” is not my enemy. The other is my Christian brother and sister.

*Shoah: Hebrew meaning catastrophe, the term used by contemporary scholars to define Hitler’s Final Solution.

About Carolyn Manosevitz

Carolyn L. Manosevitz is a holocaust scholar/artist who has been a visiting lecturer at Austin Seminary since 1996. She is executive director and founder of the Fund for Interfaith Dialogue,