June 25 “The Peace and Justice Institute Journey: From the Personal to the Collective”

Presented by Rachel Allen, Professor of Humanities and Director of the Peace & Justice Initiative at Valencia College

Professor Allen develops classes and lesson plans that focus on historical perspectives of nonviolence and ethical responsibility to promote a more nonviolent world. She spoke to us about the initiative.

Rachel is a life-long educator who supports others to practice and educate for peace and justice in their daily work and lives. She brings thirty years of experience as an educator at diverse institutions, including Eagle’s Nest Foundation, Outward Bound, the University of Oregon and Valencia College.

Rachel holds a B. S. from Northwestern University and an M. A. from the University of Oregon. She has experience providing strategic planning and visioning, program and curriculum design, fundraising and a strong sense of community, as well as a certified Safe Zone advocate for the GLBTQ community, and a National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project Facilitator.

​An active member of the League of Women Voters, she participates in community service at the Coalition for the Homeless, is a member of the board for ArtReach Orlando, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Central Florida.

June 11 “Orlando:  The City a Year After Pulse”

Patty SheehanOrlando City Commissioner, District 4


June 12, 2016, was the most horrific day in the history of the City of Orlando. In the days since the tragedy, the members of our community have stood up and stood together to show the world the best humanity has to offer. Together we will remain Orlando United.” – Mayor Buddy Dyer

During the Pulse tragedy, and in the days following the attack, Sheehan became one of the symbols of healing for the LGBT community. She spent days at the scene of the shooting, with survivors and the families of those taken, providing courage and leadership.

Commissioner Sheehan was the first openly gay elected official in Central Florida. She championed non-discrimination ordinances and the domestic partner registry.

The City of Orlando and Orange County Government, in collaboration with Pulse, announce the dedication of June 12, 2017, as “Orlando United Day – A Day of Love and Kindness.” This announcement formally dedicates June 12 to the memory and honor of the 49 innocent lives taken at Pulse, reaffirms the community’s commitment to survivors and loved ones, as well as recognizes the global compassion and love displayed in the wake of the tragedy.

Commissioner Patty Sheehan was first elected to the Orlando City Council in 2000. She attended Seminole State College and the University of Central Florida, earning her B.A. in art. A former Administrator with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, she serves her constituents full time.


June 04 “Literature and Mindfulness”

Kathryn Duncan, Associate Professor of English, St. Leo University, St. Leo, FL (just North of Tampa)

A return visitor to our class, see Feb 12, 2017, Professor Duncan, continued her series on mindfulness. Today she shared with us a discussion of mindfulness and its relationship to literature.

Kathryn received her Ph.D. from Tulane University with a specialization in eighteenth-century British literature. She’s published and given presentations on pirates and Methodists, and her current book project is called Jane Austen and the Buddha: A Study of (the) Enlightenment.

On a personal note, she has known Gene Zimmerman since she was a teenager; he is partially responsible for helping her get her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida as well as inspiring her research on pirates and also Methodists.

May 28  Wrangle

A Nu Class “Wrangle” allows members to comment on and discuss previous class topics. Kent Horsley led this Wrangle as we re-visited previous presentations, bringing up unanswered questions or unspoken thoughts, allowing for additional discussion and comments.

May 21  Peace Pole and Steps to Peace

Facilitated by Debbie Hill

Debbie led a discussion about the 7-ft limestone Peace Pole and the Path to Peace landscape to be dedicated in front of the Sanctuary on the first anniversary of the Pulse Tragedy, June 12, 2017, at 9:30 am. It’s our hope that as we experience the stepping stones on the Path to Peace that a spirit of love, peace, and harmony will be re-awakened to help us transcend our differences and celebrate the diversity in our community. The Path to Peace consists of ten stones, each with the name of a prominent peacemaker.

The community is invited to join us in recommitting ourselves to the cause of peace at the dedication on the church campus. Reception to follow.

May 14 Wrangle

A Nu Class “Wrangle” allows members to comment on and discuss previous class topics. John Richard and Kent Horsley led this Wrangle as we re-visit previous presentations, bringing up unanswered questions or unspoken thoughts, allowing for additional discussion and comments.

May 07 “Beneath White Stars: Holocaust Profiles In Poetry”

Holly Mandelkern, Poet, Lecturer, Librarian, and Educator with a special interest in Holocaust studies.

Holly spoke about individuals from her book, which is a collection of original narrative poems, historical accounts, and pen and ink illustrations.

Beneath White Stars: Holocaust Profiles In Poetry (April 2017) features her narrative about people from the Holocaust whom she has known personally or whose stories she has taught. Melding historical detail and keen insights with the grace of poetry, she brings to life a wide variety of individuals struggling against the horrors of the Holocaust. In these pages, children are sent from home to face new lands alone, teens risk their lives to resist in ghettos and forests, prisoners rise above the miseries of concentration camps through art, and diplomats and clergy employ their wiles to save all those they can. Illuminated with drawings by local illustrator Byron Marshall, Beneath White Stars opens a unique window on bright lights that shone even during the darkest of times.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Holly graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in European history and from Florida State University with a graduate degree in library science. Traveling to Poland and Israel in 1991 she studied Jewish resistance during the Holocaust and with other educators, took classes with some of the world’s leading Holocaust scholars. Inspired by the survivor, founder, and leader of the program, Vladka Meed, she taught about Jewish resistance and related topics for twenty years at the Summer Teachers Institute at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida and at other locations in Winter Park, Florida. 

In October 2015 Holly completed the three-year intensive Twelve Chairs Advanced Poetry Course. The winner of the 2016 Thomas Burnett Swann Award, she has published poetry in journals of the National Council of Teachers of English, the Florida State Poets’ Association, and the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association of Florida. Her most recent writing appears in Yeshiva University’s Spring 2016 Prism: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, which features her poetry about prominent survivor Roman Kent and a discussion of her process of writing historical poetry. Holly speaks at community, cultural, and religious events.  After teaching Jewish Studies for twenty years at her synagogue, she currently serves on the Judaic Studies Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida.

Book Launch: Sunday, May 21 at 2pm

“The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida proudly announces the publication of Beneath White Stars: Holocaust Profiles in Poetry by Holly Mandelkern. An innovative Holocaust educator, author, and poet, Holly has been a regular presenter at our Summer Teachers’ Institute for many years. In this splendid collection, her narrative poetry brings to life survivors she has known and individuals whose stories she has taught.  You are cordially invited to attend a special book launch event at the Holocaust Center on Sunday, May 21st at 2:00pm.”