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Director of New Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies Wants to Spread Understanding Through Education and Communication

Published October 03, 2019

As anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination are on the rise, the Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies at Nazareth College has formed to promote understanding and inclusion and to expand Jewish studies, including increased opportunities for students' experiential learning and learning on campus. The Center's first Executive Director, Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, J.D., believes that education and communication are key to greater understanding and to bringing people closer together.

Created out of a deep commitment from Nazareth faculty and staff to enhance the college's already integral religious studies, peace and justice, and other programs, and out of that same commitment from the William and Sheila Konar Foundation, the new center will offer coursework, study abroad, visiting scholar, and other initiatives and opportunities for Nazareth students and the broader community. In addition to creating relevant community partnerships, the Konar Center will also partner with two existing Nazareth centers dedicated to interfaith understanding: the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and the Center for Spirituality.

Hate incidents and how they are handled are an important part of the tolerance conversation. Part of effective growth in understanding others is "knowing that the method of handling hate incidents can open the door for educating and even for changing future beliefs and incident outcomes," says Leipzig Holzhauer. While the current political climate and rhetoric is extremely polarizing, she believes that people "can sometimes assume good intent with the possibility for learning" when they encounter instances of ignorance or hateful comments.

Prior to joining Nazareth College, Leipzig Holzhauer worked as the statewide regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for Florida and as a high-impact non-profit consultant. Her legal practice included fighting hate crimes and standing up for victims of illegal discrimination. She is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage program and among other activities, volunteered for the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Jewish Federation. Leipzig Holzhauer recognizes that colleges like Nazareth are places where real conversations about tolerance and social justice are happening everyday, and that students and faculty at Nazareth, in particular, are "highly intentional about the important work they do."

"Hava is in a unique position to be the inaugural executive director of the Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies, bringing significant experience and expertise in both areas of the Center's mission," said Dianne Oliver, dean of Nazareth's College of Arts and Sciences. "Her work around issues of anti-Semitism and ending hate, her connections and voice among the Jewish community broadly, her role as a Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League in Florida, her outstanding experience as a leader and innovator, and her deep commitments and successes in working for tolerance in the best and most robust sense of that word make her an outstanding choice for this work. Hava is clearly the person we know can successfully launch the Center, and I am confident that she will make a significant impact around the important issues that are central to the Konar Center, not just at Nazareth College, but in the Rochester community and beyond."

Through the Konar Center, Leipzig Holzhauer is working on a partnership program with the Monroe County Bar Association and the Levine Center to End Hate. This Nazareth and broader community program will address the recent increase in anti-Semitism, a discussion of hate incidents and hate crimes, as well as balancing first amendment rights with the need for heightened security. Additional goals for the Konar Center include establishing an advisory board and internship opportunities for students.

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The Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies

Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.

Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, J.D., is the first executive director of the Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies at Nazareth.