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In-Person: $10 General; $5 Seniors, Students, CJH/MOCA Members
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Kindly note this event will be held off-site at the Center for Jewish History at 15 West 16th St. in Manhattan’s Union Square neighborhood.

To mark the common historical experiences shared by Jewish and Chinese people seeking to emigrate to the United States, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and the Center for Jewish History invite you to a special panel discussion on the unique materials created by Jewish and Chinese detainees in the U.S. and abroad and their experiences.

Join scholars Claire R. Thomas (Professor of Law and Director of the Asylum Clinic at New York Law School), Roslyn Bernstein (Professor Emerita, Baruch College, CUNY and Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), and Ayelet Brinn (Philip D. Feltman Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish History, University of Hartford). The discussion will be moderated by Andrew Rebatta, curator of MOCA’s 2017 special exhibition FOLD: Golden Venture Paper Sculptures.

A highlight of the event will be discussion of reminiscences from a Jewish detainee onboard the SS St. Louis, the ship that carried more than 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany intending to escape anti-Semitic persecution, which was turned away by both the U.S. and Canada in 1939. Another highlight will be a child’s charm bracelet created in the Westerbork Concentration Camp in the Netherlands. MOCA will bring items from its Golden Venture Paper Sculptures collection to be viewed during a dessert reception to follow the discussion.

About Golden Venture

On June 6, 1993, the Golden Venture ran aground near Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY. The cargo ship’s passengers, nearly 300 migrants primarily from Fujian Province, China, were being smuggled into America by a Chinese crime syndicate. Their arduous, three-month journey went from Bangkok to Kenya, and around Africa, before arriving in the US.

After ten passengers drowned and some escaped, the remaining men and women were apprehended by Immigration and Naturalization Service, and either deported or confined to immigrant detention facilities.

While the asylum-seekers waited for uncertain legal outcomes in York Country Prison, Pennsylvania, they began creating paper sculptures employing the traditional Chinese folk art of paper folding known aszhizha or huzhi. As more men began this practice, the sculptures were given to pro-bono attorneys to express their gratitude.

Initially these sculptures were made of what was widely available in prison—discarded magazines and legal pad paper. The figures became more sophisticated as the detainees were allowed to use outside materials and supplies given to them by supporters. The more than 10,000 sculptures were exhibited and sold at fundraisers by members of the grassroots activist group People of the Golden Vision.

June 27, 2023
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

About Claire R. Thomas

Claire R. Thomas is an attorney, advocate, and educator interested in migration, statelessness, and human rights. She graduated from the University of Chicago and also studied at the Université de Paris X, Nanterre. She holds a graduate degree from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and a law degree from New York Law School.

She directs the Asylum Clinic at New York Law School, in which she teaches law students how to represent immigrants seeking asylum and other humanitarian immigration protections in the United States. As an Assistant Professor at NYLS, she also teaches the introductory immigration law course. Claire also teaches Refugee and Asylum Law at The New School in New York City.

Claire was a Fulbright Garcia-Robles U.S. Scholar in Law to Mexico for the 2020-2021 academic year and was a Visiting Professor at ITESO in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Claire researches statelessness, human rights protections and durable solutions for people in migration in Mexico, focusing on persons who are not from the Americas.

Previously, Claire was a contract attorney with CUNY Citizenship Now!, where she assisted immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. She served as a consultant with The Door’s Legal Services Center, where she supervised staff members representing immigrant youth in removal proceedings. She worked was an attorney with the Safe Passage Project, in which she mentored pro bono attorneys representing immigrant children; supervised law students, fellows, and staff; coordinated a monthly Juvenile Docket at the New York Immigration Court; planned, organized and conducted trainings at the state and national level; and engaged in advocacy efforts with other non-profit organizations as well as city, state and federal agencies. From when she was a 1L law student until 2014, Claire advocated for the rights of African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern immigrants at African Services Committee, a Harlem-based non-profit assisting persons living with HIV/AIDS. She represented survivors of gender-based violence, including minors, in immigration proceedings and directed “Projet Aimée,” a women’s empowerment group for survivors of gender-based violence.

Claire is a member of the Immigration & Nationality Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Law and Society Association. Her writings have appeared in various law journals and other publications.

She is admitted to practice in NY and IL. She speaks French and Spanish.

About Roslyn Bernstein

Roslyn Bernstein is the author of four books: Boardwalk Stories, a collection of 14 fictional tales set from 1950 to 1970; the co-author with the architect Shael Shapiro of Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHoEngaging Art: Essays and Interviews from Around the Globe, a collection of 60 of her online avant-garde art pieces; and most recently, a novel, The Girl Who Counted Numbers.

Since the 1980s, she has been reporting from around the globe for such print publications as the New York Times, Newsday, the Village Voice, New York Magazine, Parents, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has also reported for various online publications, including Medium, Tablet, Huffington Post, and Guernica, focusing primarily on cultural reporting and contemporary art, with in-depth interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists.

Currently, Professor Emerita in the Department of Journalism and the Writing Professions at Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY), she taught journalism and creative writing classes from 1974-2016. A devoted teacher, she served as an advisor to Ticker, the college newspaper and established Dollars and $ense, the Baruch College business magazine. During her time at Baruch, she served as the director of the Journalism Program and was the Founding Director of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program, a residency that has brought over 30 distinguished poets, playwrights, critics, and journalists to campus to teach intensive classes for gifted students. Prof. Bernstein is a recipient of the College’s Distinguished Awards for Teaching and Service.

Before coming to Baruch, she worked at Esquire and attended graduate school. She holds a BA from Brandeis University and a Masters and Ph.D. in English Literature from NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

About Ayelet Brinn

Ayelet Brinn is an Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies and History at the University of Hartford, where she holds the Philip D. Feltman Professorship in Modern Jewish History. After receiving her Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019, she served as the Rabin-Shvidler Joint Postdoctoral Fellow at Fordham University and Columbia University, the Ivan and Nina Ross Family Fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, and a scholar in residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Her first book, A Revolution in Type: Gender and the Making of the American Yiddish Press, will be published in November by New York University Press.

About Andrew Rebatta

Andrew Rebatta is a curator and DJ who has organized exhibitions, performances, screenings, and talks for museums and contemporary art spaces. A homegrown Queens resident, he spent some of his formative years throwing art shows and playing music in Chicago and DC before returning and working at the Museum of Chinese in America, where he curated FOLD: Golden Venture Paper Sculptures in 2017. Lately, Andrew’s research has been delving deeper into the diasporic relations that informed his curatorial practice and personal approach to interpreting the poetics of immigrant material culture.

This program is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), a grant program made possible by funding from the Mellon Foundation, as well as well as by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.