Aron Pinkussohn is Jewish. He has Mick Foley wrestling posters on his walls. He loves the Mets. Aron Pinkusshon is also the mastermind behind the Wednesday, Jan. 31 campus screening, “From Swastika to Jim Crow.”
“I’m not religious- but I’m Jewish because of my heritage,” confides Pinkusshon, Vice President of Quinnipiac’s Jewish organization, Hillel. “I mean, I love bacon.”
The campus screening was presented by Hillel and the Black Student Union, in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League. Obtaining the privilege of showing the screening wasn’t all that easy.
Pinkusshon and Hillel president, John Kroll, traveled to Chicago to the United Jewish Community General Assembly this past November, in an attempt to prove that Quinnipiac’s organization was becoming more serious. Pinkusshon describes it as “basically just a big Jewish convention.”
Apparently, making the trek to the big Jewish convention paid off. Hillel received a grant of $500 to be put towards food, invitations, and posters for the movie showing.
“They saw that Quinnipiac was trying to grow as a campus,” explains Pinkusshon.
This was quite the achievement for Hillel. Sixteen schools applied for the grant and only four were awarded.
“From Swastika to Jim Crow” attracted over 45 people to the Mancheski Seminar Room. The Anti-Defamation League provided an introduction, and guest speakers included Cheryl L. Greenberg, professor of history at Trinity College, and William H. Foster III, an associate professor in English and Communications at Naugatuck Valley College.
“Before the Holocaust came into full bloom,” Pinkusshon explains, “Many Jews came to the U.S. They couldn’t find jobs in the North. A lot of Europeans weren’t accepted.”
The documentary tells of how approximately 1,200 “refugee professors” came to the United States from mostly Germany and Austria, after Adolph Hitler’s persecution in Europe.
Many found jobs easily, like Albert Einstein. Others, however, were faced with the problem of scarce academic positions in the Depression-era labor market, as well as the discrimination Pinkusshon spoke of.
Many Jewish professors settled into an unlikely position of teaching at black colleges in the American South. Academic opportunities were more fruitful for them in the South, thanks to economic factors and courageous African-American administrators. “From Swastika to Jim Crow” tells the story of the professors, the impact they had on their students, and the bond the two groups shared.
“Nothing like this was ever done at Quinnipiac,” says Pinkusshon proudly, of the campus screening. “I didn’t know how it would go. I wasn’t nervous. I hoped it would be successful.”
Pinkusshon attributes the success of the screening to the discussion afterwards, which involved not only students, but faculty as well.
“We talked about how the movie relates to today. You can’t change the world- but you can help it,” Pinkusshon said.
Sophomore Frank Perrotta attended the screening.
“I only went because he’s in my room,” said Perrotta, Pinkusshon’s roommate. “But I ended up finding it interesting. It turned out to be a meeting to talk about diversity, not just about Jews and Blacks. We focused on the fact that Quinnipiac isn’t that diverse. Not many people are aware that there might be problems.”
Perrotta admits that he expected the screening to be “a Jewish thing,” but was pleasantly surprised to find it was about everyone. “I’m proud of Aron,” Perrotta said. “It’s good for the community that a 19-year-old can put something like this together.”
Aron Pinkussohn: just your typical 19-year-old, wrestling-loving, Mets fan. Oh yeah… he’s Jewish too.