Mason Library expands

Cohen family donates for HGS department growth

The founder of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the late Charles Hildebrandt, said that the Cohen Center’s purpose is “to remember and to teach” for the sake of a world wounded by the Holocaust. It is to continue in that effort that the Cohen Center and the Holocaust and Genocide Studies (HGS) Department are expanding their territory on the Keene State College campus in the coming months by building an addition to the Cohen Center in the Mason Library.

Photo illustration by Sebastien Mehegan / Executive Editor PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ETHAN PLATT / equinox staff

Photo illustration by Sebastien Mehegan / Executive Editor

The addition is possible due to a donation made by Rick and Jan Cohen, whom the Cohen Center is named after. The donation amount, however, is confidential. 

Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies Dr. James Waller said, “The addition was a legacy gift from Rick and Jan Cohen to ensure that our department, and the Cohen Center, had the physical facilities that would allow our joint programs to continue to grow and flourish at KSC. The HGS program here remains the only one of its kind in the U.S..”

KSC Interim President Melinda Treadwell also said of the Cohens, “They have been long friends of the Cohen Center and long friends of Keene State.” 

According to Director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Dr. Hank Knight, a committee has been working on this addition for about 18 months or possibly longer. 

The addition will serve to provide more space for both the Cohen Center and the HGS department. This will include a gallery, offices and conference space for the Center. The HGS department will also have a 60-student tiered lecture hall and a smaller seminar/conference room on the second floor of the addition. 

Dr. Knight said, “The new facilities will allow for greater collaboration and coordination for the Cohen Center and HGS. It will provide a more public face to both programs and help them be more visibly accessible for students, visitors and other members of the campus and surrounding communities.”

The new addition will also allow for a variety of programs to be hosted by the Cohen Center and the HGS department. 

A series of events is being planned on the theme, “36 and Counting,” since the Cohen Center will be celebrating it’s 36th anniversary of it’s presence on the KSC campus in 2019. The number 36 is also significant in the Jewish faith. In Jewish legend, there is a story about 36 individuals, ‘Lamed Vavniks,’ in Hebrew, whose bravery and faith ensures the survival of the world. 

Dr. Knight said of the programs, “What they will have in common is the theme that individuals, groups and larger communities all have a stake in building the kinds of communities that welcome others, respect differences and promote dignity and respect…” 

This series of events will kick-off with the Annual Holocaust Memorial Lecture this September. The lecturer this year will be Debórah Dwork, the Rose professor of Holocaust History at Clark University.

Since the addition is being built onto the Mason Library, some disruption in the building can be expected during the construction process. 

Dean of Mason Library Celia Rabinowitz said, “We expect some noise and disruption as the addition is built, so we will probably need to move some furniture around and then see how things look once the building is done. We’ll also work with the builders to restrict access to areas in the library, if that becomes necessary.” 

However, Rabinowitz said the library is happy to continue sharing space with the Cohen Center and the HGS department. “We are very proud to share our spaces and to support the Center and the department, and we’re really looking forward to a long and productive time working together,” said Rabinowitz.

The addition to the Cohen Center is expected to be complete by Jan. 2019. 

Rachel Vitello can be contacted at

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