As the search for the new Cohen Center director continues, it has now been narrowed down to three finalists. On Thursday, April 18 one of the finalists, Dr. Robert Ehrenreich came to Keene State College and displayed both his past experience and his vision for the future of the Cohen Center.
The purpose of the talk was to evaluate the presenter. In the next few weeks the rest of the candidates will give similar talks.
The search process has been led by Dean of Arts, Education and Culture Kirsti Sandy. “The talk is about the vision for the Cohen Center at the college, in the region and in the world,” Sandy said.
Ehrenreich also has a personal connection to the subject of Holocaust and Genocide studies. According to Ehrenreich, his father escaped Germany as part of the Kindertransport, a program that brought thousands of Jewish children from Europe into Great Britain during the late 1930s.
In addition to being evaluated by a search committed led by Sandy, any attendee at the event had the ability to fill out a form based on what they thought of the candidate’s performance.
The committee is made up of staff from the Cohen Center, a Library employee and a representative from the Holocaust and Genocide major.
“He is a national leader in Holocaust Studies,” Sandy said. Ehrenreich is currently the University Programs Director at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. There he has worked with college students, including some of them Holocaust and Genocide Majors from Keene State College.
The talk centered around Ehrenreich’s vision for the center but started with why the subject is relevant in today’s world. Ehrenreich talked about changes in “memory and memoriam” in Europe around how the Holocaust was viewed. These changes troubled Ehrenreich, because to him they represented a trend in Europe of countries not taking responsibility for their role in the Holocaust. To counter this, Ehrenreich said we need memory, and we need education.
Ehrenreich talked about his outreach program at the University of Alabama and other institutions, which focused on bystanders and complicity in Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow south. “We had a very a large, very diverse group that was there,” Ehrenreich said. Ehrenreich pointed out how combining the two subjects brought together people knowledgeable in either subject and taught them about the other.
The outgoing Cohen Center Director Hank Knight was in attendance. “Hank is a real community builder,” Sandy said. According to Sandy, while Dr. Knight served as both Cohen Center Director and as a teacher, the next director will not be teaching right away.
“I am looking for someone who has the wisdom and the leadership to take the Cohen Center to the next level. I know that you have the kind of wisdom and leadership in Robert and I suspect that you’re going to find that same kinds of wisdom and leadership in the other candidates and it’s going to be a really difficult choice,” Knight said. Knight is not on the search committee and is trying to keep a distance from the process, as Ehrenreich is an old friend of Knight’s.
In addition to talking about the rise of radicalization, Ehrenreich also highlighted the danger in using inflammatory rhetoric such as calling one’s opponent a Nazi.
Ehrenreich finished the talk with his vision for the Cohen Center. “Keene State could play a central and unifying role,” Ehrenreich said in reference to Holocaust and Genocide education throughout the country.
“I really hope a lot of students, faculty, staff and community members can show up to at least one of these because we really do care what the community thinks,” Sandy said.
The next presentations are planned for Wednesday, April 24 and Wednesday, May 15 in the Susan Herman room which is located in the new wing of the Mason library.
Teddy Tauscher can be contacted at