This week, people around the world are observing Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day. At Facing History, we take this occasion each spring to remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the Jewish resistance that accompanied and followed these events. Today, we remember the pain, suffering, and loss sustained by the victims, their families, and the generations that have followed them.
On March 2, 2019, a group of high school students in Southern California decided during a party to arrange red Solo cups in the shape of a swastika and took pictures of themselves next to the symbol, raising their hands in Nazi salutes. When Leslie White—Holocaust Studies teacher at Tarbut V’Torah and Director of Education at JFCS Holocaust Center—heard what happened, she stepped up to teach the students about the Holocaust and help them understand the significance of what they had done and they symbols they had invoked. White’s account of these events offers educators rich insights into the continuing importance of Holocaust education, as well as the pedagogical approaches that are most effective—and vital—in this time of rising hatred.
Summer is a time for relaxation. However, many of us also seek books and stories that will immerse us in the experiences of others, or will help us stay engaged in making a better world. Here are six picks that will teach, challenge, and inspire us.
From left to right: Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, Frank Stebbins, and Dr. Hank Kaplowitz.
In a recent interview, I spoke with acclaimed educator Frank Stebbins about his path to teaching, unique approaches in the classroom, and how Facing History has been instrumental in his development as an educator. Stebbins was recently named the 2019 Hank Kaplowitz Outstanding Human Rights Educator of the Year by the Human Rights Institute at Kean University.
In a recent interview, I spoke with acclaimed writer, educator, rabbi, and scholar Ariel Burger about the task of the educator on Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day—and every day. A devoted protégé and friend of Elie Wiesel, Burger is the author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom.
KS: In your bio, you note that a major personal transformation that you underwent in your young adulthood has had a defining impact on your work and that this moment was meeting Professor Elie Wiesel. What did that meeting and relationship teach you?
AB: I think there are things we all go through at certain ages and for many of us, during our teenage years, we start asking very important and fundamental questions about who we are, what’s our role in the world, how can we make a difference, and also why does the world not make any sense, morally, ethically. Our deepest intuitions about the world don’t match up with the reality of how people treat one another.
Facing History and Ourselves offers students the opportunity to confront the histories of antisemitism and genocide so that their decisions today are informed by empathy, compassion, and humanity. We support teachers to inspire students with the help of scholars whose research enters classrooms through our case studies. This matters because students are faced with complex choices about the world they are inheriting and the one they wish to build. And, they need deep knowledge in order to grapple with the realities of bigotry and respond to the challenges facing democracy.
Topics: Holocaust Education
In the final part of our three-part series, "My Life as a Jewish Partisan," Sonia Orbuch shares what it was like to fight against the Nazis, including the dangers they faced, the loss of loved ones, and the need to preserve Jewish culture in hiding. Take a look back at part one for the beginning of Sonia’s story and part two to learn about what life was like in the forest. Her story shines a light on Jewish resistance, which offers a contrast to the narrative that Jews were helpless victims during the Holocaust. Students from AJ Elementary School in East Prairie, Missouri submitted their questions to Sonia. Read her answers to glimpse into her life as a resistance fighter.
In part two of our three-part series, "My Life as a Jewish Partisan," we dive deeper into what daily life was like as a Jewish partisan living in the forest during the Holocaust. We recently shared the beginning of Sonia Orbuch’s partisan story, which starts in 1942 in the forests of Poland. She shines a light on Jewish resistance, which offers a contrast to the narrative that Jews were helpless victims during the Holocaust. Students from AJ Elementary School in East Prairie, Missouri submitted their questions to Sonia. Read her answers to glimpse into her life as a resistance fighter.
Sonia Orbuch, a Jewish partisan during World War II, recently took the time to answer questions submitted to her by students from AJ Elementary School in East Prairie, Missouri. Her story shines a light on Jewish resistance, which offers a contrast to the narrative that Jews were helpless victims during the Holocaust. Partisans were members of an organized body of fighters that formed to protect themselves from the brutality of the Nazi regime. Approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Jews escaped from Nazi ghettos and camps to form or join organized resistance groups.
Read her answers to these children’s questions in this three-part series to learn about how she joined the partisans, what life was like in the forest, and the dangers she faced resisting the Nazis.
During the March Break of 2016, a group of 31 students from three Toronto District School Board schools travelled to Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland to learn about the history of Jewish life in Europe and the Holocaust. These students were currently taking, or had previously taken, the Grade 11 elective course, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. They participated in two pre-trip meetings to help prepare them for the reality of actually facing the difficult history that they had only read and heard about in class. After the trip, we gathered together again to share memorials to our experience learning about this history in the places that it actually happened.