Layoff of YSU history professor is shameful
As current and former students in the history program at Youngstown State University, we are devastated at the recent layoff of a beloved professor and mentor. Dr. Jacob Ari Labendz taught at YSU for five years and, in that short time, left a profound impact on lives of countless students. Though his courses are challenging, they also are an incredible, unique learning experience. He cares deeply for his students, and his compassion has shown countless times, especially in the wake of challenges caused by the pandemic. Despite his overwhelmingly busy schedule, he has always been there to lend his students a helping hand, no matter the circumstance.
Dr. Labendz is one of the most dedicated and passionate professors at YSU. As head of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, he strives to educate his students and others in the Youngstown community on Jewish history and culture. He also teaches courses on the Holocaust and Holocaust memory, a subject that is incredibly important to better understand the modern world. He has helped run a myriad of events on campus, including the annual Jewish-Muslim forum, Jewish Film Festival and building of the Sukkah during the Jewish festival of Sukkot. As a university that values diversity, we need to celebrate the faculty, students and programs that create such diverse campus experiences.
During summer 2019, Dr. Labendz led 11 students to study in the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. The program was a part of a course titled, “The Holocaust and Human Rights in Central and Eastern Europe.” In Europe students had opportunities to walk the Jewish ghettos and concentration and death camps established by the Nazis. They visited sights of Holocaust memory to learn more about how this event in history is remembered throughout Europe. Dr. Labendz helped his students gain a better understanding of why Holocaust history matters, and that it must never be forgotten. He truly helped his students change their outlook on the world, and being two of 11 students in the program, we will be forever grateful.
The recent decision by Youngstown State University to lay off Dr. Labendz is incredibly short-sighted and shameful. It all but guarantees closing of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies and hinders the ability of future students to learn from a brilliant scholar.
We hope the administration comes to recognize the importance Dr. Labendz holds at the university and reconsiders their decision. We can only be “Y and Proud” when we value those who help the university to thrive.