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Miami Jewish Day School Educators Learn About Teaching the Holocaust

Clockwise from bottom right: Malka Leah Braunshweiger and Dr. Ezra Levy from Scheck Hillel Community Day School; Glenn Katzman from Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy, Denise Bergman from Temple Beth Am Day School and Sharon Horowitz, Executive Director of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach.

A group of Miami Jewish day school educators recently traveled to Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel, for an annual program co-sponsored by the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, a Committee of Federation, to learn innovative methods to teach the legacy of the Holocaust. The two-week educational initiative, “Teaching the Shoah and Anti-Semitism: Opportunities, Challenges and Techniques,” provided a comprehensive analysis of the Holocaust and helped the educators create age-appropriate materials for their classrooms.

This year’s participants included Dr. Ezra Levy and Malkah Leah Braunsweiger of Scheck Hillel Community Day School, Glenn Katzmann of Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy, and Denise Bergman of Temple Beth Am Community Day School. Holocaust Memorial Executive Director Sharon Horowitz accompanied the educators throughout the program. Scholars from Yad Vashem, Hebrew University, Bar Ilan University and other international institutions taught the curriculum.

Seminars focused on such unusual topics as “Fierce Females,” an analysis of women’s roles in the Resistance, as well as responses to students’ most frequently asked questions about the Holocaust. “Students often ask questions such as why Jews didn’t put up a greater fight and why the Allies didn’t bomb the tracks to the Concentration Camps,” Horowitz said. “Much of the training focused on answering these questions in an accurate and understandable way.” Participants also met with Survivors who shared their personal experiences during the Holocaust.

Now in its 10th year, “Teaching the Shoah” has attracted a total of 90 Jewish teachers in Jewish schools from Miami over the years, representing the largest collective group from any American city. The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach provides a stipend to cover airfares, and Yad Vashem funds the program costs for the trip. The teachers and administrators receive continuing education classes on the Shoah and new teaching materials provided by the Holocaust Memorial during the school year.

Dr. Levy called the program transformational. “We learned very effective approaches to teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to children who are so many generations removed,” he said. “It is important to teach about the realities of Jewish communities that existed before the Shoah and the recovery that took place afterward. By communicating far more than the horrors of the Holocaust, we teach empathy, leadership and achdut (unity).”

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