Please upgrade to a newer browser.

The Lehrhaus website works best in modern browsers like Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 4, Google Chrome 10, Safari 3 and newer. If you are not using one of these, you may encounter visual glitches or other problems.

The Refugee: Fleeing Oppression From the Exodus to Modern Times

This course was offered in Fall, 2016.

RefugeeThis symposium will feature historians, activists, journalists, and refugees examining today’s worldwide refugee crisis. Millions are fleeing war, oppression, tyranny, poverty, floods and droughts. Capital and commodities flow freely around the world while borders — both real and imagined — create separation and estrangement between people. We will deeply consider these issues that pose a human rights challenge to all.

The image of the refugee is deeply embedded in Jewish consciousness. Our earliest stories are the narratives involving Abraham and Sarah, Miriam and Moses, their flights and migrations. Our community is commanded to take care of the stranger, because we were strangers in the Land of Egypt. Our latest memories are of the mass migration of European Jews to America, the restrictive American immigration policies on the eve of the Holocaust, the early State of Israel absorbing millions of European and North African Jewish refuges, and the more recent movement of Jews from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and Iran.

We will consider the refugee as archetype, explore historical forms of the refugee from a Jewish perspective, examine the global crisis that faces us today, and learn what we can do as a community and as individuals.

Opening Keynotes

  • John Efron, The Refugee in Jewish History
  • Mona Rasho Malik, The Assyrian and Yezidi Genocide
  • Fred Rosenbaum, Flood Tide: How the Current Refugee Crisis is Remaking Europe

Breakout Sessions

  • John Efron, Jewish Refugees From Nazi Germany, Before and After WWII
  • Jehon Grist, Strangers in a Strange Land: Jewish Refugees in Ancient Egypt
  • Eran Kaplan, What Happened in 1948?
  • Sarah Levin, The Other Refugees: Jewish refugees from Arab Lands from 1948 and until Today
  • Mona Rasho Malik, The Assyrian and Yezidi Genocide
  • Avi Rose, Welcoming the Stranger: Resettling Syrian and Other Refugees in the 2016 Bay Area
  • Fred Rosenbaum, Hitler's Long Shadow: Germany, Austria, and a Million Muslims
  • Mark Schapiro, The Global Challenge of Climate Change Refugees

Closing Performance

  • Joel Ben Izzy, Stories of LGBT Refugees


# Sessions
Date & time

Sunday, November 13
1:00 - 5:00 pm

Session Time Days Location Instructors
Nov 13 1:00 PM–5:00 PM Sun Jewish Community Library Avi Rose Eran Kaplan Fred Rosenbaum Jehon Grist Joel Ben Izzy John Efron Mark Schapiro Mona Rasho Malik Sarah Levin


Jewish Community Library

1835 Ellis Street

San Francisco, CA 94115


The Library is located between Scott and Pierce on the campus of the Jewish Community High School. There is a free and secure parking garage accessible from Pierce Street; buzz the intercom, announce that you’re coming to the Library, and the gate will go up. For more information call (415) 567-3327.


Joel Ben Izzy

Joel ben IzzyThough Joel ben Izzy has been telling stories all his life, he began his professional career in 1983 after graduating from Stanford with a degree in English, Creative Writing and Storytelling. Following a year performing in San Francisco, he set off traveling the world, gathering and telling stories. His first job took him to a village outside Rome, and just as one story leads to another, so one trip led to another. Joel Ben Izzy traveled, teaching and telling stories in England, Wales, Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and China. He is the author of The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness (Algonquin Books; November 2003.)

John Efron

John EfronJohn Efron is the Koret Professor of Jewish History at the University of California at Berkeley, where he specializes in the cultural and social history of German Jewry. A native of Melbourne, Australia, he has a B.A. from Monash University and earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University. In his work, Efron has focused on the way German Jewry attempted to reinterpret and reinvent Jewish culture in the wake of its complex encounter with modernity. Among his publications are Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Yale UP, 1994); Medicine and the German Jews: A History (Yale UP, 2001); The Jews: A History (Penguin, 2009, 2nd edition forthcoming 2013) and his most recently published work, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic, a study of modern German Jewry’s attraction to the aesthetics of medieval Sephardic Jewry (Princeton University Press, 2016). He is currently at work on a new book entitled, All Consuming: Germans, Jews and the Meaning of Meat.

Jehon Grist

Jehon GristJehon Grist, Ph.D., is a Senior Educator for Lehrhaus Judaica. He earned his doctorate in Near Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley, where he was a Regents' Fellow. He has conducted field research in Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the Valley of the Queens in southern Egypt.

Eran Kaplan

Prof. Eran KaplanEran Kaplan is the Rhoda and Richard Goldman Chair in Israel Studies at SFSU. He received his B.A. (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University and his Ph.D. in Modern Jewish History from Brandeis University. Before coming to San Francisco, he taught at Princeton, Cincinnati and Toronto. He is the author of The Jewish Radical Right: Revisionist Zionism and its Ideological Legacy and The Origins Of Israel: A Documentary History with Derek Penslar (both published by the University of Wisconsin Press). You can look forward to his next book Beyond Post-Zionism, scheduled to appear in 2015 with SUNY Press. In addition to his scholarly publications, he contributed articles to Haaretz and Tikkun. At SFSU, Professor Kaplan teaches courses on Modern Israel, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Israeli Cinema, Modern Hebrew Culture and the History of Jerusalem.

Sarah Levin

Sarah LevinSince joining JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North America) in 2010, Sarah Levin has played a lead role in organizational development through strategic planning, program development and management, fundraising, establishing a staffed LA chapter, developing partnerships with national communal organizations and universities, and managing board members, staff, speakers bureau, and volunteers. Sarah produced and launched JIMENA’s multi-lingual Oral History and Digital Experiences Program, and various education, advocacy, social media, fundraising and community outreach campaigns. Sarah has coordinated and produced over 100 cultural events nation-wide and effectively increased JIMENA’s visibility. In 2013 and 2014, Sarah provided briefs on Jewish refugees from Arab countries to the Canadian Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and she guest lectured at Ben Gurion University and Bar Ilan University.

Prior to joining JIMENA, Sarah spent six years in Tel Aviv, Israel where she contributed to social service causes in a variety of capacities through her work at various non-profit organizations, mainly NATAL: Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War. Sarah has utilized her dynamic skill sets and passion for Jewish preservation and environmental causes through her involvement in a number of organizations and initiatives including: Jewish Council for Youth Services, fair trade initiatives in Israel, UJA’s Partnership 2000, San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Yezidis International, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and Openlands Project. A descendent of a Holocaust survivor and Turkish Jews, Sarah is firmly dedicated to preservation of Jewish culture and Israel advocacy

Mona Rasho Malik

Mona Rasho MalikMona Rasho Malik, an Assyrian Christian, emigrated from Iraq to Chicago at the age of nine years old. It was in 1969 when the Baath Party had gained full control of the Iraqi government. As the granddaughter of genocide survivors (the 1915 genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks by the Turks and Kurds) Mona has devoted most of her adult life to the Assyrian cause.

Mona grew up in Chicago and attended the University of Illinois majoring in Architecture with the last year spent abroad studying European architecture in a school located in Versailles, France. She moved to San Francisco in 1981, married in 1982 and had 3 boys. Mona has volunteered with non-profit organizations for the past 25 years helping Assyrians in Iraq. Currently, she is in charge of special projects at the Assyrian Aid Society of America. Her nonprofit work led to multiple trips to Northern Iraq with the most recent being in August of this year. For the past three years Mona has also traveled to New York to participate at the United Nations Forum for Indigenous People and to Washington DC to advocate for Assyrians in their homeland. Mona’s goal is to bring awareness to the plight of Assyrians in the homeland and the genocide that has devastated their chances of survival.

Avi Rose

Avi RoseAvi Rose has served as the executive director of Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay since 2005. Avi is a licensed clinical social worker with an extensive background in nonprofit administration, service delivery, and leadership, both within and outside of the Jewish community.

Avi received his B.A. from Brandeis University in 1976 and later earned an MSW from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College. Subsequent to his graduate education, Avi worked at Jewish Family Service in Los Angeles and later managed the pioneering AIDS program at Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco, for which he received the Louis Kraft Award for Outstanding Young Professional in Jewish Communal Service in 1988. Avi continued to work on HIV/AIDS issues for several decades, including a period serving as executive director of a national HIV treatment information and advocacy organization. He also worked extensively in the area of community-based health care for low-income people.

Fred Rosenbaum

Fred Rosenbaum Fred Rosenbaum, founding director of Lehrhaus Judaica, has written four books on Bay Area Jewish history and three books on the Holocaust. He has taught numerous courses on the history of contemporary Israel at Lehrhaus and the University of San Francisco. He has been awarded the S.Y. Agnon Gold Medal for Intellectual Excellence by the Scopus Society of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators, as well as the Anne and Robert Cowan Writers’ Award for making an exceptional impact on the Bay Area by writing on Jewish themes.

Mark Schapiro

Mark SchapiroMark Schapiro is an investigative journalist specializing in the intersection between science, politics and power. His most recent book, just out in paperback, is The End of Stationarity: Seeking the New Normal in the Era of Carbon Shock, a narrative journey to the hot-spots around the world where the economic disruptions from climate change are being experienced and the fight over integrating those costs into the economy are underway. His work is also published in Harpers, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Pacific Standard and elsewhere. He is a Lecturer at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.