Ireland Twiggs '2021
How has your life been shaped at Manhattan College by working at the Center?
My time at the center has impacted me in a variety of ways, both emotionally and professionally. Working at the center since I was a freshman has allowed me to grow with HGI. I saw it completely transform from a floor on the third floor of the library to an archive on the first floor that has helped transform the Manhattan college campus and community. Along the way I have met amazing mentors and leaders leading the fight for justice and human rights. Seeing the space go to a barren room, to a space that is a moving story has impacted me in ways I never thought possible during my time at college. It has also taught me extensive professional skills on effective communication, organization, and time management. It has also educated me in ways that no classroom setting could, as well as given me tools to educate my fellow peers and combat hatred, bigotry, and antisemitism. Emotionally- it has helped me put real experiences, stories, and heartbreak to the words on paper. It has allowed me to empathize and feel pain directly from survivors, educators, and activists. I can confidently say that my experience at the HGI Center has made me a better and more aware human being, and my time at Manhattan College would not have been the same without the center.
The current state of our world and nation is full of darkness and hatred for one another based on differences that we don't understand and don't attempt to understand. The most powerful tool that we have is education and creating dialogue with one another to become better allies and human beings. We are all complicit in systems that marginalize and oppress. We must be willing to accept our faults and demand change and action to combat hate and prejudice. We must vow to be the light and lift one another up and fight when called to action by our brothers and sisters of all races, religions, creeds, gender, and orientation.
It was a deeply profound and meaningful experience to work with a Muslim on the Holocaust. With a rise in antisemitism and islamophobia there is a large amount of misinformation being spread. Working with a Muslim provided both a point of view and perception I had not considered before and forced me out of my own comfort zone to question the things that I was hearing and had been taught growing up. Most importantly, Dr. Mehnaz Afridi humanized the experience and brought light to a topic as well as brought awareness to these injustices and provided meaningful solutions and changes to fight antisemitism every day. Her passion and dedication are evident in everything she does and it spreads to those around her. She amplifies the voices of those who have suffered from injustices through inclusivity and her own faith.
This summer I am currently working on my thesis which is on Hindu Nationalism and peace-building efforts in Jammu and Kashmir. I am also working on a congressional campaign in NYC in time for the primary elections. This fall I will be a senior double major in Peace and Religious Studies with a minor in Arabic. Upon graduation I will be spending the summer in Lebanon working with Project SHINE working with Palestinian youth and hope to follow grad school next fall.
Kammy Wong (Actress)
What did the Center teach you about history?
I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Mehnaz M. Afridi at the Holocaust Genocide and Interfaith Education Center as a sophomore at Manhattan College. The work I did at the Center still impacts me to this day. It was a privilege to work for her and the Center because I've always admired her strength of spirit and compassion. This job challenged me to be a more thoughtful and collaborative member of both the Manhattan College and Riverdale communities. It taught me valuable leadership and organization skills. I got to see firsthand the impact of the Center's inclusive discussions and activities had on fellow classmates, who regardless of their background, were affected by what they experienced. Because of the Center, I was able to meet those in community that have their own stories and connection to the Holocaust, and that made the work even more meaningful and all the more important for future generations. I'm grateful that this job not only encouraged me to be a better peer, leader, and member of our community, but also gave me the confidence and desire to work towards greater empathy and compassion in all arenas.
History has taught us time and time again, that hate and prejudice has overall led to even more pain and suffering. It is a painful cycle that bleeds through generation after generation. However, we've also seen how love and compassion can stopped that wheel and plant seeds for better tomorrows. Antisemitism is a blatant disregard of ones humanity, yours and theirs, because connection is essential to our existence. By insisting another human is an "other," you fundamentally erasing that connection that you share, making it easier to destroy. Holding on to hate is the easy thing to do, but we see that it not only destroys that which we are prejudiced towards, but also ourselves, showing us that no matter what we are bound together as an human race. If one suffers, another suffers.
Choosing love, gratitude and life is the most humanitarian thing we can do.
Dr. Afridi's commitment to the Holocaust as a Muslim is truly profound and wonderful. It shows how far we've gone as a community in embracing acceptance and responsibility to one another. We are connected more in our shared values than our differences.
I am currently a Foundation Research and Writing Ambassador and Theatre Apprentice at Ripple Effect Artists, a social change non-profit arts organization. I've come upon acting at Manhattan College, and in the past year, have had the tremendous opportunity to perform at the Hollywood Fringe Festival as Chang'e, Goddess of the Moon in "ASCEND," which won the Producer's Encore Award Winner, and (Lucy in) "How I Saved Hanukkah," as well as the feature, "Introducing Jodea." My aspiration is to continue my training at Julliard or the Yale School of Drama.
James Noeker '2018
How has the Center helped you with sensitivity and tolerance of others?
My work for the Center was a foundational milestone in my early career to date, which may come across as unexpected remark from a business student who has since gone on to work in the software industry. My experience instilled within me a tolerance and sensitivity for others which, had my undergraduate career followed a different course, I fear would never have been obtained. And while practice co-administering, analyzing, and promoting events has been useful in my endeavors so far, the critical thinking skills, appreciation of nuance, and drive to build a better world has, professional activities aside, enriched my personal life let and fuels my ambition to, somehow, help others.
Too often during my adolescence and young adulthood, I have been subjected to too many stories of hateful acts domestically and abroad: violent antisemitism, socio-institutional violence and oppression on the basis of race, mass murder at schools and large gatherings, and a systemic apathy for the poor to name a few. As the body count continues to accumulate, the distribution of justice becomes less and less frequent. In fact, it seems that the forces of hate only acquire higher and higher positions of power. At this crucial moment, the work of the Center to promote tolerance and intersectionality through the examples of the Holocaust grows ever more significant; so that we may know how prejudice and hate metastasize when allowed to go unchallenged.
Dr. Afridi is a Muslim woman of Pakistani roots, the perspective from which she is able to consider and interpret the Holocaust specifically, and the topic of genocide more broadly, is extraordinary. She is uniquely able to remove the events which are together known as the Holocaust from the "Textbook of the 20th Century" and humanize - individualize - them so that those among us who are not of a Jewish background feel its pain with personal significance. Dr. Afridi pushes us to reflect upon, not just remember, the Holocaust to ensure anything like it is not repeated.
Presently, I am a Customer Community Manager at the New York office of a a UK-based software company called Unily.
Ethan Van Ness '2013
How has the work you did at the Center influence you and your current workplace?
In 2011, I was finishing my senior year at Manhattan College studying Government and Religious Studies. I had never taken a course with Dr. Afridi but had attended several of the lectures and events hosted by the HGI Center and come to know and admire Dr. Afridi. Professor Afridi had only been with the Center for a short time and I was honored when she asked me to be the Center's first student assistant. Not only did the job give me my first true administrative work experience, but it also exposed me to the raw stories of those who have suffered the most unimaginable horrors due to the hatred of some and the indifference of millions. This work impacted me on a deep level.
I talk and think about my experiences with the Center and Dr. Afridi often in my current work as a policy advisor for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and those experiences help drive me to try and build a better world that is less likely to allow or accept the hate and atrocities suffered by so many. In recent weeks, the U.S. has been gripped by protests over the murder of innocent black people for no other reason than the color of their skin. This violence against this community is not new, only the public consumption of videos of their murders are. Our system has been built upon a false sense of racial, moral, and economic superiority that is nothing more than a dangerous falsehood. Yet the system persists. That is why the work being done by Dr. Afridi and the HGI Center has never been more important.
Dr. Afridi is a Muslim woman running a Holocaust education center at a Catholic college. Her work is a testament to the ability of people to cross boundaries and recognize our shared humanity and interconnectedness above all other things. The HGI Center and Dr. Afridi set an example that I try to follow every day of my life - we are all more than the individual differences that define us, at our core we are all human. Because of this, we must remain vigilant to any who would say otherwise or seek to divide. We must not yet hate and prejudice pervade our systems of governance and society. We must always strive for justice and remember that until there is justice for all there is justice for none.