Zachary Albert ′10
Hometown: Allen, TX
Major: Religious Studies
Noteworthy Fact: When he was twelve, Zachary helped retrieve a Nazi-seized Torah originally from Horovice, Czechoslovakia, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum, touching the hearts of many Holocaust survivors and inspiring the documentary film “Dancing with Torah.”
What are you passionate about, and how have you pursued those interests at Rhodes?
Rhodes creates an environment in which you can pursue anything that you’re passionate about. In my case, I’m interested in religious studies and science. As a first-year student, I began the pre-med track, but grew to discover where my strongest passions lie, and began majoring in Religious Studies.
I’m also interested in my Jewish heritage and volunteerism. There is a phrase in Hebrew called “L′dor V′dor,” which means “from generation to generation.” I take “L’dor V’dor” to mean that we all have a stake in the future of our world; we all should try to make the world a more humane and just place for the next generation.
How have you continued your interest in service at Rhodes?
Through my work in the Bonner Scholars program, I’ve met a group of people who share my passion for volunteerism. With the help of another Bonner Scholar I helped reestablish a guitar class at Cypress Middle School. In addition, I work with Facing History and Ourselves.
On that same note (pun intended), I’ve also been able to continue playing music, which is something I love to do. I’m a part of the Classical Guitar Quartet at Rhodes. I’m a big fan of rock music and the blues. In fact, Memphis’ historic music scene solidified my decision to come to Rhodes.
What is it like to major in Religious Studies at Rhodes?
The wealth of knowledge of The Department of Religious Studies is amazing. The professors are very open-minded and always accessible. I’m often baffled at how well they can discuss and dissect texts, regardless of its religious tradition.
Religious Studies majors come from a variety of faith traditions and backgrounds. In fact, our entire campus is very accepting of religious differences. For example, I’ve been able to become great friends with the college’s Chaplain, Rev. Walt Tennyson. We often have great conversations about Judeo-Christian faith and its significance for contemporary life.
Ever since I was twelve, I’ve felt a deep longing to gain knowledge about the Holocaust and its impact on the Jewish community, and mankind in general. As a Religious Studies major at Rhodes I’ve been able to continue learning about the Holocaust and religious ethics through various classes and a powerful study abroad experience.
Where did you study abroad?
Knowing of my involvement and commitment to Holocaust Studies, my Bonner Scholars mentor Tiffany Merritt came to me the moment she heard about a unique Maymester program. She encouraged me to apply for an interdisciplinary Holocaust travel/study program led by Rhodes Religious Studies professor Stephen Haynes. In the two-week course, we visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, the Jewish Ghetto Heroes’ Memorial in Warsaw, and several concentration camps, including Ravensbruck, Terezin, and Auschwitz. It was quite an emotional two weeks. I have experienced things that no picture or word could do justice.
After the program was over, I traveled to Ostrava in the Czech Republic, which was the second largest Jewish community in the country before World War II. Now it’s home to about only thirty Jewish people. I worked with the small group of Holocaust survivors there, and I also helped repair and restore the cemeteries in Ostrava and the surrounding areas, many of which had fallen into disrepair, with broken headstones, faded epitaphs, and overgrown vegetation.
What have you learned from working with Holocaust survivors?
Getting to know the elderly survivors of the Holocaust has taught me that the human spirit is indomitable, that even in the worst of circumstances it is possible to not only put your life back together, but to enjoy it to the fullest. Life throws many different obstacles in one’s way, but with the proper support system a traumatized survivor of the Holocaust can take back the life that was stolen from them. Because of their wisdom and courage I know there will never be anything in my life that I cannot handle or accomplish.
Zachary Albert in the Dallas Morning News