Mikhal Dekel discusses her book Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019). This is episode 274 of Teaching Learning Leading K12, an audio podcast for educators.
Mikhal Dekel was born in Haifa, Israel, to a Holocaust refugee father and an Israeli-born mother. Over the course of seven intense years, she completed her mandatory military service, earned an L.L.B. from Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann School of Law, interned at the Tel Aviv State Attorney’s Office and joined the Israel Bar Association, before deciding to take a complete break.
In New York, where Mikhal traveled to regroup, she worked odd jobs, sat for hours at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) before Manet’s Water Lilies, and eventually began a graduate program in English at the City College of New York and then a Doctoral program at Columbia University.
She now lives in Manhattan with her family, teaches English and Comparative Literature at the City College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and directs CCNY’s Rifkind Center for the Humanities and Arts.
Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey (2019) is the culmination of Mikhal’s decade-long journey to understand her father and the odyssey at the core of his young adulthood—an experience which he never talked about, though it informed every aspect of his being.
His wartime odyssey was also part of a larger chapter in the history of World War II, that of refugees in Central Asia and the Middle East. The fact that most Polish Jews who survived the war had followed this path was virtually unknown at the time when she began writing.
At CCNY, Mikhal teaches courses on Literature and Theory of Migrations; the Historical Memoir; Representations of Trauma; Law and Literature, and other topics.
Mikhal also directs the Rifkind Center for the Humanities and Arts at CCNY, which under her leadership has supported faculty research, awarded fellowships and hosted talks, conferences and interdisciplinary seminars that seek to broaden the academic conversation.
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Length - 35:55