AMHERST – On Sunday, March 3, Scholar John Sears will discuss Eleanor Roosevelt’s unusual role in the Roosevelt administration during the 1930s and 40s at the Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main St. at 2 p.m.
Because of her keen interest in refugee issues and her unusual role as both insider and outsider in the Roosevelt administration, no figure of the 1930s and 40s provides a better lens for examining America’s failure to respond adequately to the events leading up to the Holocaust and to the Holocaust itself than Eleanor Roosevelt. How did one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century respond to the Nazi persecution of the Jews? What was her relationship to the men and women who led efforts to assist German and Eastern European refugees to escape from Europe? How did she, as journalist, speaker, wife of the President, and friend of Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles seek to support these efforts? How successful was she? Sears’ talk will examine the frustrations, successes, and failures of her work on behalf of refugees and her understanding of the obstacles that often blocked the possibility of rescue. He will also discuss her related campaign to address the inequality, discrimination, and violent injustice within America that undermined the credibility of democracy in its critical competition with Fascist ideology.
Sears has taught at Tufts, Boston University, and Vassar College and served as executive director of the Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, NY and Associate Editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. Sears is the author of Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century and essays on Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Frost, William James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Timothy Dwight, Buffalo Bill, Karl Bodmer, Muir Woods, and the Smithsonian Castle. He lives in Hawley, MA where he serves as historian for Hawley’s Old Town Common Historic Site and president of the Sons & Daughters of Hawley. Sears is currently working on a book on Eleanor Roosevelt and the Jews.