The USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute of Visual History and Education (USC Shoah Foundation) welcomed Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to the Institute’s world headquarters on the University of Southern California campus on Wednesday.
Mr. Emhoff’s visit included a lengthy conversation with the interactive biography of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter, part of the Dimensions in Testimony program that allows visitors to pose questions to specially recorded interactive testimonies of survivors of the Holocaust and hear real-time responses in realistic conversation. Minutes later, Mr. Emhoff spoke with Gutter live via video conference from his home.
Mr. Emhoff, a graduate of USC Gould School of Law, is the first Jewish spouse to serve in the White House and the nation’s first Second Gentleman. In his role, he kept his Jewish heritage and focused on Jewish issues, holding a seder and hanging a mezuzah on the front door of the vice president’s residence for the first time. Mr. Emhoff has also spent time engaging with individuals and groups of Jews and other religious faiths to work toward the administration’s goals of strengthening religious tolerance.
Upon his arrival at the Institute, Dr. Emhoff was greeted by Dr. Kori Street, Acting Finci Viterbi Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation, in the George and Irina Schaeffer Room for Genocide Studies. The two viewed the recorded testimony of Helena Horowitz, a Holocaust survivor from Pilzno, Poland, the same town from which Mr. Emhoff’s family immigrated to the United States. Mr. Emhoff heard how young Horowitz survived the Holocaust by concealing her Jewish identity and later settled in New Jersey.
Dr. Street highlighted the mission and global work of the USC Shoah Foundation to fight hate through testimonials and thanked Mr. Emhoff for his visit.
“We are honored to have welcomed the Second Gentleman and encouraged by his words of support as we work to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hate around the world with testimonies,” Dr Street said.
Dr. Street then led Mr. Emhoff to the Dimensions in Testimony installation featuring Gutter’s interactive biography. There, Dr. Street and Seline Hamelians, a rising senior from Crescenta Valley High School enrolled in the William P. Lauder Junior Internship Program, introduced the Second Gentleman to the interactive biography.
In a later interview with the Jewish Telegraphic AgencyMr Emhoff said the program “far exceeds what I thought it was going to be”.
“It’s so impressive, the use of technology,” Mr. Emhoff said. “It’s so real. And you really felt like you were in the room, you really felt like you were talking to people. It was so engaging.
Sam Gustman, Chief Technology Officer of the USC Shoah Foundation, then discussed technological innovations and the potential for chatbot technologies such as Dimensions in Testimony to be made available to a wider audience in the future.
Mr. Emhoff then joined Dr. Street and Pedro Noguera, Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of USC Rossier School of Education, for the live video conference and conversation with Gutter.
“You and the vice president are doing some really fantastic things…for the future of mankind,” Gutter told Mr. Emhoff. “And I think that gives me another feeling, an emotion, that the world is becoming a better place.”
“I love your message of unity,” Mr. Emhoff told Gutter. “We all need to stick together and stand united against this epidemic of hate.”
At a White House celebration last year, Mr. Emhoff spoke about his personal story and the continuing need to fight for religious freedom and against persecution, reminding the audience that “American Jews and Jews around the world have experienced and continue to experience hostility, discrimination and violence.”
His visit to the USC Shoah Foundation underscored his dedication to telling the stories of the past to build a better future.
About Dimensions in Testimonial
Dimensions in Testimony is an initiative launched by the USC Shoah Foundation to record and display testimonies in a medium that highlights the importance of dialogue between Holocaust survivors and learners, and preserves the ability to do so as well. far in the future. Dimensions in Testimony revolutionized the concept of oral history by integrating adaptive cinematic techniques, specialized display technologies and natural language processing to deliver an intimate and unique experience.
Each specially recorded interview allows viewers to ask the survivor questions about their life experiences and hear the answers in realistic real-time conversation. Questions are answered naturally, as if the survivor were in the room, and thanks to artificial intelligence, the more questions asked, the better the technology.
Dimensions in Testimony was developed in association with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, with technology from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and the concept of Conscience Display. Funding for Dimensions in Testimony was provided in part by the Pears Foundation, Louis. F. Smith, Melinda Goldrich and Andrea Cayton/Goldrich Family Foundation in honor of Jona Goldrich, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and Genesis Philanthropy Group (RA). Other partners include the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
Read more about dimensions in the testimonial.