Office of Public Affairs
(315) 312-2265
Aug. 28, 2002
CONTACT: Howard Gordon, 312-2212
OSWEGO -- The story of 982 refugees fleeing the Holocaust during World War II and coming to Oswego's Fort Ontario has people on the SUNY Oswego campus talking. Ruth Gruber's "Haven," the story of that one-of-a-kind shelter, was selected for the first-ever Oswego Reading Initiative to have the campus community read and discuss one book.
Gruber, then a special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, accompanied the refugees, many of whom have referred to her as their "guardian angel." She received an honorary doctorate from SUNY Oswego in 2001.
"We see a book like 'Haven,' which is relevant across the disciplines, as a great opportunity for different professors who may use the book to show students that the same piece of writing can be looked at, and valued and analyzed, from different perspectives," said Jean Ann, chair of the ORI committee and an assistant professor in Oswego's curriculum and instruction department.
Reading the book also can provide common ground for incoming students, Ann explained. "If we have all read 'Haven,' then when we meet each other for the first time, we have some starting ground," she said. "It can mean a lot to have some way to enter into conversations with others, especially for new students."
Many efforts inside and outside of the classroom are slated to get people talking about the book and its lessons, said Howard Gordon, executive assistant to the president at SUNY Oswego. "It really is an incredible and inspirational story of tolerance, humanity and overcoming obstacles," said Gordon, who is also a member of the ORI committee.
David Levy, one of the former refugees, will be the guest of honor at the college's Fall Convocation at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 in Tyler Hall's Waterman Theatre. He was 22 years old, and in a hospital bed, when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the camp in 1944.
"When Mrs. Roosevelt asked him how he liked America, he wasted no time. 'I love America, and I love the camp. But I want to go to college,'" Gruber wrote in "Haven." Levy would get his wish, attending spring 1945 classes at the college, then known as Oswego State Teachers College. In addition to speaking at the convocation, Levy will also visit classes to help stimulate discussion of the book.
Also on Sept. 12, "Ruth Gruber: Photographs as Witness" will be one of two exhibits opening at Tyler Art Gallery, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibition will include images from the refugee shelter. Organized by Rembrandt Exhibition Services and sponsored by Auxiliary Services at SUNY Oswego, the exhibition will run through Oct. 5.
The Artswego International Film Series will connect with ORI as well. All films will show at 7 p.m. in Tyler Art Gallery and feature post-screening discussions. There is no admission fee for the films, which will include "The Double Crossing: The Voyage of the St. Louis," Sept. 26; "The Boat Is Full," Oct. 2; "Daring to Resist: Three Women Face the Holocaust," Feb. 5; and "Sisters of Resistance," Feb. 18.
Future activities are expected to include a three-day trip to the Holocaust Museum and other sites in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the campus History Club; an exhibit in Penfield Library featuring documents and books from the period of "Haven"; and the theatre department production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" in late April and early May.
- END -

News Releases Main Page | Public Affairs Main Page | SUNY Oswego Home