I don't have many Facebook friends, largely because I don't spend much time on Facebook, but also because I am really bad at accepting friend requests. I have over 250 pending friend requests (so if you are one of those 250, don't take it personally. I am probably 'into you' just not that into Facebook.)
Most of my Facebook friends are typical family, friends, and business associates. While many are very impressive personally and professionally, real "stars" are absent. With the exception of one.
I first met Dr. Deborah Lipstadt in Los Angeles when I was a graduate student in Jewish communal service and Social Work. She spoke to the student body one day. I was captivated by her topic, her New York accent, and her bright red hair. I heard her again a year later when I was interning at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Subsequently, as a Federation professional, I was instrumental in bringing Dr. Lipstadt several times to my previous communities in St. Louis and Virginia Beach. And not solely to my credit, but due to the collaborative efforts of the Institute for Jewish Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College, the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh University, and our Jewish Federation, Dr. Lipstadt will be speaking in the Lehigh Valley on Sunday October 18, 2015, at 3:30 PM, at Muhlenberg College's Moyer Hall.
Dr. Lipstadt is a professor of Modern Jewish History and the Holocaust. She is an acclaimed lecturer and presenter. She is engaging, thoughtprovoking, and inspiring.
So are many professors, but, when modern Jewish history is written, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt will be noted as a historian who made history.
Her book, “Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust,“ addresses the question "What did the American public know and when did they know it?" The book helped spark broader discussions about the relationship between press coverage, public knowledge and government policy and is required reading in many journalism circles.
Her book, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” addressed the growing efforts of Holocaust denial. By outlining the history of history revisionism, she noted that while ignoring Holocaust deniers as a lunatic fringe, their numbers and influence was increasing. She adroitly linked Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. The book was the first full-length study of Holocaust deniers and forever changed the discussion and tactics of addressing the deniers.
The book also led to a landmark trial. In 1996, Dr. Lipstadt was sued in British courts for libel against David Irving, a prolific Holocaust denier referenced as such in her book. English libel law puts the burden of proof on the defense, meaning that it was up to Dr. Lipstadt to prove that her claims of Irving's deliberate misrepresentation of evidence to conform to his ideological viewpoints were substantially true. The Holocaust was on trial and Dr. Lipstadt had to prove it to be fact above the distortions of historical revisionists.
The trial ended in 2000 with history upheld and Holocaust denial sufficiently exposed for the trash that it is. The trial, chronicled in several books including Lipstadt' s History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, was noted by the London Daily Telegraph as having "done for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations."
When members of Congress need to consult on political responses to Holocaust denial, they call Dr. Lipstadt. When Secretary of State Madeline Albright sought a small group of leaders and scholars to advise her on matters of religious persecution abroad, she called Dr. Lipstadt. When President George W. Bush assembled a small US delegation to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, Dr. Lipstadt was included. When the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum needed a historical consultant to help design the section of the Museum dedicated to the American Response to the Holocaust, Dr. Lipstapt was tapped. When in 2011, on the occasion of the 5Qth anniversary of the start of the Eichmann Trial, the US State Department sought to learn about the impact of the trial, they selected Dr. Lipstadt to provide the address.
All of these alone would be sufficient to set Dr. Lipstadt apart from everyone else in my Facebook friendbook. But added is the distinction of a major motion picture in development about the Lipstadt-Irving trial with Hillary Swank set to portray Dr. Lipstadt.
Somehow Dr. Lipstadt showed up one day on my Facebook page. Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, to have someone as important as Dr. Lipstadt as a Facebook friend. I tendered the request, and I remain flattered and honored that she accepted.
Please join me on Sunday October 18, 2015, at 3:30 PM at Muhlenberg College's Moyer Hall when Dr. Lipstadt delivers the 2015 IJCU Wallenberg Tribute Lecture.
She is, after all, a historian who made history and a pretty cool Facebook friend.