As acts of antisemitic violence have become more visible in the news in recent years in the United States, many non-Jewish people have begun to apprehend the extent of violence that continues to befall members of this community. Amid this awareness, we often hear less about the way that non-physical forms of violence—including words, symbols, and narratives that advance antisemitic hate—are equally insidious and have a particularly corrosive impact on young Jewish people’s experiences, self-concepts, and sense of possibility.
The recent 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education—the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the policy of state-sanctioned segregation in public schools—raised a number of vexing questions for those concerned with educational equity today. As a decades-old quagmire of competing interests sustains school segregation in many parts of the country, this anniversary reminds us that we must have all hands on deck in the continuing fight for educational equity.
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.
On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is our job as teachers to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is not forgotten. It is our hope, as a society, that the preservation of these memories will prevent these events from happening again, any place in the world, and that the words of the survivors will ring out as alarm bells today.
This week, Facing History's Learn + Teach + Share blog featured a series of blog posts from the students and teachers involved in an exchange between two Los Angeles middle schools: Sinai Akiba Academy, a Jewish day school, and New Horizon School, a Muslim day school.