Human Rights Institute at Kean University to host panel discussion featuring H. E. Ferit Hoxha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Albania to the United Nations, among others/
UNION, N.J. – During World War II, countless Albanians placed their lives at risk by sheltering Jews, both Albanian nationals and refugees from neighboring countries, from harm at the hands of the Germans.
Besa, the Muslim religious belief of honor, requires an Albanian to endanger his or her own life if necessary to save the life of anyone seeking asylum. This ancient code, which literally translates as “to keep the promise” is the basis for these righteous deeds—and which make up part of the hidden history of the Holocaust.
The Human Rights Institute at Kean University will host a lecture and discussion, titled Who are the Albanians? onThursday, November 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the University Center Little Theatre. His Excellency Ferit Hoxha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Albania to the United Nations, will discuss the political history and culture of Albania, Dr. Anna Kohen, president of the Albanian-American Women’s Organization, will share her and her family’s experience during the Holocaust, and Mr. Endri Merxhushi, chair of the Albanian-American Organization Chameria, will speak about his growing up during the communist regime as an Albanian with roots in Chameria. Dr. Gilbert Kahn, professor of political science at Kean, will moderate the panel.
“At this moment in history, when the media is filled with examples of human rights abuses taking place around the globe, it is inspiring to see how an entire nation placed their own family’s lives in danger to fulfill a religious and cultural commitment to protect strangers in need,” said Dr. Hank Kaplowitz of Kean’s Human Rights Institute. “We hope that the moral lessons from this thought-provoking lecture and discussion will motivate attendees to consider the plight of refugees and recognize how individual families can make a difference.”
Following the presentation, guests are invited to a reception at the The Human Rights Institute Gallery where they can view BESA: A Code of Honor-Muslim Albanians Who Rescued Jews in World War II, an exhibition of photographs byrenowned New Jersey-native photographer Norman Gershman. BESA features images of Albanian and Kosovar Muslim families who sheltered and saved Jews during the Second World War. BESA will be on exhibit until December 20, Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sponsored by Kean’s Human Rights Institute, Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program, Holocaust Resource Center, Human Rights Club, Muslim Student Association, Jewish Studies program and Jewish Faculty and Staff Association.
The event and exhibition are free and open to the public. Educators are encouraged to bring their classes. For more information, please contact the Human Rights Institute at (908) 737-4670.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE AT KEAN UNIVERSITY broadens Kean’s longstanding efforts to promote the awareness of human rights issues and violations across the globe and to develop initiatives designed to eradicate these atrocities and their root causes. The Institute sponsors a broad range of activities, including seminars and conferences that promote conflict resolution, and works with school districts to train teachers and produce curricula for New Jersey school children.
H.E. Mr. Ferit Hoxha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Albania to the U.N, has been active in foreign affairs and international relations for more than 20 years. He has been a director for multilateral relations at the Albanian MFA, Ambassador to the European Union (1998-2001) and Ambassador to France (2001-226), while also covering other countries. H.E. Mr. Hoxha has served as Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006-2009). During this time he served also as National Coordinator for the Alliance of Civilizations and as Albania’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors. H.E. Mr. Hoxha was awarded the Dignity of Grand Officer of the French National Order of Merit. He has served in his current position since 2009, and since January 2013 he serves also as vice president of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Dr. Anna Kohen, D.D.S., is president of the Albanian American Women’s Organization (AAWO). She was born in Vlora, Albania, after World War II. She left Albania in 1966 with seven family members and went to Greece. After earning her dentistry degree at the Ethnikon and Kapodistriakon University of Athens in 1970, she moved to the U.S. and earned her D.D.S. from New York University in 1976. She taught there for 10 years and has been practicing general dentistry ever since.
In 1990, Dr. Kohen brought 37 Jewish-Albanian relatives (a total of 10 families) to the U.S. The following year, she was invited to Albania to celebrate the formation of the Albanian-Israeli Society where she has been elected an honorary member. In 2004, the president of the Albanian Republic, Alfred Moisiu, recognized Dr. Kohen with a Special Civil Merits medal honoring her “valuable contribution to helping Albanians during the Kosovar humanitarian crisis; for precious aid given to the new Albanian emigrants in the United States of America.” In 2006, the Mayor of Vlora named Dr. Kohen “Honored Citizen of Vlora.” Recognizing the benefits of collaboration, Dr. Kohen has partnered with other nonprofit organizations to help improve the health, education and wellbeing of Albanian Americans.
Mr. Endri Merxhushi, born in the city of Tirana, Albania, with roots of Cham Albanian origin, migrated to the U.S. at the age of 18. He attended Pace University and graduated from Kean with a degree in political science. Merxhushi is the chair of the Albanian-American Organization Chameria (AAOC), a nonprofit organization whose mission it is “to promote and preserve the cultural, historic and ethnic heritage of Albanian-Americans from the region of Chameria who also seek justice via the American democratic standards of citizenship for the condemnation of the forced displacement of ethnic Albanians from Chameria and facilitate their return and resettlement in Chameria.
Founded in 1855, KEAN UNIVERSITY has become one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, boasting a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving more than 16,000 students. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers two doctorate programs and 35 graduate programs, professional diploma or state certification options, while the university’s five undergraduate colleges offer 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. Visit us online at www.kean.edu, friend us on Facebook/KeanUniversity or follow us on Twitter @KeanUniversity.