An expert on the Rwandan genocide and a globally renowned scholar on international law, Zachary D. Kaufman, will be speaking on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the concept and history of social entrepreneurship with Kaufman, a lecturer at and fellow of Yale University.
Kaufman said he looks forward to engaging with students and faculty at PLU. In addition to discussing social entrepreneurship, which is also the topic of his latest book, he will present a case study from sub-Saharan Africa, regarding the Kigali Public Library — Rwanda’s first-ever public library.
PLU was able to host Zachary D. Kaufman after receiving a grant from the Public Education for Peacebuilding Support initiative. Kaufman has previously lectured at forums such as the United States Congress, the United Kingdom Embassy and the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda. His commentary and research have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and several other publications.
For Kaufman, it is no coincidence that he writes and speaks about these topics.
As a Jew, Kaufman said he grew up learning about the horrors of the Holocaust and personally experiencing anti-Semitism from classmates. He said, “on one occasion, a fellow student, who held me personally responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, picked me up, turned me over, and rammed my head repeatedly into a rock until I gushed blood.”
In some cases, he said, the children had adopted their attitudes from parents and religious leaders. This was how he learned the importance of killing myths, misinformation and misperceptions that lead to persecution.
Kaufman was finishing his sophomore year in high school when the genocide in Rwanda occurred from April to July of 1994.
Kaufman’s mother was born in South Africa, and she told him stories from the region. “I remember hearing snippets about the Rwandan genocide as it was happening and feeling a visceral reaction because of the traumatizing events in my own past and in the past of my religious community,” he said.
“I also wondered if there was anything I could do, but then thought to myself that I was just a kid in high school in a country far, far away, and so there wasn’t anything for me to do,” Kaufman said.
“I wish I could talk to that kid and tell him that people of all ages, anywhere in the world can — and should — play a part in raising public awareness about, pressuring governments to respond to and helping societies recover from genocide.” This idea, he said, is part of what he tries to share in his teaching.
“I hope that some leave [the lecture] inspired to pursue their own projects to promote positive social and/or environmental change in their local or in our global community,” Kaufman said. ◼︎