Jewish Studies Program honors former director, celebrates 40th anniversary

Jimmy Miller

At age 14, Herbert Hochhauser began learning English from his home in Switzerland, and then six months later, he took an IQ test upon his immigration into the United States. He was told he would be successful washing cars.

On Sunday night, after Hochhauser denied a ceremony in his honor for two years, Kent State’s Jewish Studies Program paid tribute to Hochhauser as its longest-serving former director of 20 years at its “Memories, Milestones, Momentum” dinner.

“I met him when I first came to Kent, but I knew of him before,” current director Chaya Kessler said. “I know his life story, which is very important, and I got to know him a little as a person.”

Kessler said Hochhauser, who also received an Emmy Award for his production of “Beyond the Fence: Memories of Buchenwald,” made his decision at a convenient time: The event also doubled as a celebration of the program’s 40th anniversary.

“He didn’t really want it to be about him,” Kessler said. “You can’t delay those things, you have to make them happen when the time is right, and this was perfect timing. It coincided with our 40th, and that’s why it’s good timing.”

The event featured a variety of speakers, ranging from President Beverly Warren to former faculty members and directors. Hochhauser talked about how special it was to not only be a part of this program, but to be a member of the Kent State community.

“I was fortunate throughout life,” Hochhauser said. “When I took this job, I enjoyed myself so much.”

Speakers at the event also talked about the late Saul Friedman, a professor in the program for 20 years. Friedman worked closely with Hochhauser during their tenure together in the program, which former faculty member James Pazol said made a fantastic duo.

“Saul Friedman and Herb Hochhauser were a little bit like yin and yang,” Pazol said. “I was a spectator, and I appreciated every minute of it.”

Seth Murray, a junior English major, spoke about the program-sanctioned trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most infamous concentration camps during the Nazi and World War II era.

“I felt angry, confused, disoriented,” Murray said. “I was standing in the place where human beings stopped being human beings.”

Kessler said the program and Jewish culture uses the tragedies of the Holocaust to better the future, much like how Kent State uses May 4 as something to learn from. In fact, Kessler said the Jewish Studies program helped the university move past May 4.

“Three out of the four students who were shot on May 4 were Jewish,” Kessler said. “It’s a huge, big issue for us. It’s personal, and it’s a tragic event. There’s a trauma. Unfortunately, Jewish people are kind of used to overcoming trauma, not to mention the Holocaust, which is the trauma of traumas. We feel like we have the experience to deal with that.”

Kessler said there are no current, final plans to expand the program, although she hopes to add more fundraising and add a Jewish Studies major. Students can now take a Jewish Studies minor, but no major is available. Warren said she will be working closely with Provost Todd Diacon in expanding the Jewish Studies program.

“As we consider inclusion, many of our studies programs are important,” Warren said. “We must honor our past, our past can’t totally define our future, and we must come together to find our voice in the world.”

 Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected]