Mazel Tov!

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Jul. 10 | Modified: Jul. 21
Mazel Tov!

Appalachian State’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies is turning 13, and to celebrate this important rite of passage, organizers are hosting a bar/bat mitzvah event at the center on Sunday, July 20.

The champagne brunch fundraiser starts at 11:30 a.m. and will be held in the Parkway Ball Room of Plemmons Student Union. The cost is $75, and reservations are encouraged.

The center was founded in 2002 as an educational tool and resource for teaching on the history of the Holocaust, according to center supporter Molle Grad.

Additionally, the center works to strengthen tolerance, understanding and remembrance of Jewish culture and history, according to the center’s website.

Grad said the center also hosts a regional, annual symposium to educate teachers from North Carolina and surrounding states on the proper way to teach and talk about the Holocaust.

Grad said the center started out as an “office of” or a department, thanks in part to the efforts of former chancellors Frank Borkowski and Ken Peacock.

Eventually, the center gained its own footing and is now under the administrative oversight of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“There’s going to be a ceremony to pay tribute to those that had a hand in the center’s reception, and we have chosen to feature three honorees,” Grad said.

Traditionally, a bar or bat mitzvah is held to pay tribute to a young person’s rite of passage. Since the center is turning the same age at which this typically happens for a person of the Jewish faith, organizers are treating the center to the same type of celebration.

One of those featured honorees is Ruth Etkin, who played an important role in the founding of the center.

“Basically, at a lunch meeting about 14 years ago, Dr. Rennie Brantz addressed the group and mentioned he was planning to teach classes on Holocaust study with hope of expanding,” Etkin said. “Someone in the group basically said, ‘Is there anything we can do,’ and he said, ‘Yes, I could use support in terms of just getting the word around and fundraising for events.’”

Support is just what Brantz received from his supporters.

“So, a small group of us committed ourselves to do whatever we could, because we thought this was valuable in itself and the history of the Holocaust, but also the dissemination of the knowledge with hope to include more Judaic studies,” Etkin said.

The classes turned into the week-long teachers’ symposia, which were the roots for the center. Today, the center is more than just an educational resource, but a place to remember and reflect.

“It was important to us to keep history of Holocaust alive and the history of the Jewish people … not just how they died, but how they lived,” Etkin said.

For more information, call (828) 262-2311, or visit

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