Learning Cutting Edge Approaches to Holocaust Education at Yad Vashem
December 6th – 16th, 2015, a group of eleven Echoes and Reflections staff and trainers had an opportunity to enhance their knowledge about the Holocaust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel. Guided by scholars, experts, and fellow educators, the group engaged in a deep study of the history and it’s meaning to the Jewish people and the world.
The program marked the culmination of a yearlong series of professional development opportunities for staff and trainers to build skills, knowledge, and best practices in bringing Echoes and Reflections to educators across the country. The series featured facilitator skill-building conference calls, webinars on a range of topics associated with the Holocaust, and a book club to share ideas about new texts, both and fiction and nonfiction, that teachers are using in the classroom.
“An important part of the culminating seminar was the discussions and sessions that focused on the educational and pedagogical aspects of teaching about the Holocaust as a human story within the broader context,” said Shani Lourie, Head of the Pedagogical Division of the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem. “This is an approach that makes the Holocaust meaningful and relevant to students today,”
Participants were presented with cutting edge research and expert analyses of subjects including Judaism and anti-Judaism in medieval Christianity, intellectualism and the rise of modern antisemitism in Europe, and the organized fight of German Jewry against the rise of Nazism. Holocaust survivors joined several sessions offering first-hand accounts of their experiences. One session, entitled, “The Unprecedentedness of the Holocaust in an Age of Genocide,” included a discussion of the parallels between the Holocaust and other genocides of the 20th century, including Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda.
“Our experience studying at Yad Vashem was invaluable,” Jill Rembrandt, Associate Project Director for Echoes and Reflections at the Anti-Defamation League shared. “We left with more skills and knowledge to deliver meaningful training programs and answer difficult questions, and with a renewed sense of confidence to continue our individual professional development.”
One participant added that the seminar, “Brought the complexity of the difficult aspects of Holocaust education into focus.” He now feels, “More empowered and knowledgeable to bring this complexity to educators in the United States at upcoming Echoes and Reflections professional development programs.”
Read the latest Echoes and Reflections blog for more inspiring reflections from two participants about their experience at Yad Vashem.