Education Newsletter - August 6

August 6, 2020


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Wiesenthal Education Weekly - For Educators, Parents & Students

August 6, 2020

FSWC's Education Team welcomes Melissa Mikel!

We are thrilled to announce that Melissa Mikel will be re-joining our team as Director of Education. Melissa's tenure at FSWC has previously included spearheading educational events like Speakers Idol and the National Policy Conference on Holocaust Education along with extensive Equity and Diversity workshop programming for Educators and Law Enforcement. Melissa recently graduated with an M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and is currently working on her PhD.

Teaching Lessons from the Past

As our provinces begin to share school re-opening plans for September, we are all reminded of the uncertainty that lies ahead. Concern regarding class size, social distancing, mask-wearing and a whole range of issues, a result of the Covid pandemic, have re-framed discussions regarding safe learning environments in schools.

While teaching during a pandemic is certainly unchartered territory for Canadians today, many parts of the world deal with unsafe and uncertain circumstances in their efforts to educate youth on a daily basis – and this has occurred throughout history as well. As Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies moves toward the new school year, we are looking to teachers who practiced their profession in the ghettos of the Holocaust for guidance. Not only were they dealing with a typhus pandemic and the outbreak of other communicable diseases, they were also trying to teach under a regime that dehumanized and devalued Jewish citizens, deeming their education and learning illegal.

Motives for continuing to educate under these circumstances may have varied, but commonality can be found in the ways in which these teachers adapted:

1.      Incorporate the pandemic into your lesson plan. Much of the documentation that survived the Holocaust by child authors reflected circumstances through which these children were living. Teachers encouraged their students to draw pictures and write about what was happening around them. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, an Austrian artist and educator, taught secret lessons and offered lectures in Terezin concentration camp. She believed that children using art as a means to express themselves helped them deal with the trauma they were experiencing. While Dicker-Brandeis was murdered in Auschwitz, her work with children during the Holocaust is seen as an important building block to art therapy.

2.     Use the resources that are available to you. Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish children’s author (pen name Henryk Goldszmit) and educator ran the Jewish orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto. While his contingent of children continued to grow at a rapid rate, the supplies needed to care for and educate these children continued to decrease – limited food, no paper and pencils readily available, books were next to impossible to find, and the list of challenges went on. He did what he could to make sure ‘his’ children were fed and that the children continued their education. He implemented a ‘children’s court’ which allowed the children to have a voice in disciplinary matters as well as in their learning and daily operations of the orphanage.

3.      Be patient with yourself and your students. While all students and teachers were trying to survive life in the ghetto and the uncertain circumstances that threatened their lives daily, they all lived a different experience. Some children had witnessed their parents’ brutal murder, some had both parents still alive; some children lived with their family in their own apartment in the ghetto, while others had a space in a room that was shared with more than one family. Everyone had their own story to tell, and those stories impacted their ability to focus and learn each day.  

Engaging History Lessons Without Technology

As history teachers, we generally try our hardest to make the lessons interesting and engaging for students. We understand the challenges of getting students interested in a particular topic; having them stay interested when learning about dates and places is a different challenge altogether.

In teacher's college we are taught to make carefully curated lesson plans employing numerous strategies, resources and creative ideas. Everyone did so dutifully, utilizing the newest online platforms, digital images and virtual activities. I will never forget sitting in that class, and hearing our professor say – “okay but what if the school does not have access to technology?” We all scratched our heads, confused expressions visible from behind laptop screens. Then we began to google suggestions. Do you see the irony yet? Coming of age in the digital world meant that we never considered a future without immediate access at our fingertips. While many schools and school boards do have laptops, smart boards and other devices, others do not. Schools in rural boards or lower-income areas often have to make due with limited resources.

So what do you do to make history interesting without technology?

It turns out you teach lessons the way they were done years prior: you tell stories, paint mental pictures and bring in speakers to share memories. The local histories of a place are often under-accessed fountains of knowledge. A small mining town in Northern Ontario taught their students about immigration patterns and Indigenous history through the town archives; a rural South-Western Ontario school brought in Veterans from the Second World War through their local Canadian Legion; a suburban Toronto school discovered how their own family histories related to world events through personal interviews with relatives.

These simple lesson ideas open up a whole new world of teaching, showing us that there are always ways to make history impactful and engaging with students, even without the aid of technology.

4 Questions With..

Maddy Goldberg - University of Guelph

For as long as I can remember I have loved food, which eventually led me to cooking. I was an avid home cook through high school but never considered pursuing it as a career. After high school I went to the University of Guelph where I studied social work. Through my studies I had the opportunity to work in various co-op jobs where I quickly realized my love of food was much more than a typical hobby. My mind would constantly wander back to food, cooking, menu planning and researching everything there is to know about the subject. I was so distracted by learning about food and cooking new items that I realized I don’t just want to follow this into a career – I need to.

After culinary school I began working at Aloette Restaurant in Toronto where I worked my way from stage cook (the equivalent of an intern) to prep cook and eventually through all the stations on the line. I develop recipes, guides and tips for home cooks through my personal Instagram account and through Taste Toronto.

1.How has your Jewish upbringing influenced your passion for cooking?

My first food memories are associated with my bubbie’s cooking and sharing dinner together on Friday nights. As a kid I ate at many restaurants that have ties with the Toronto Jewish community such as United Bakers, Centre Street Deli, and What a Bagel. Many of those approachable flavours like smoked salmon, capers, smoked meat, and rye bread influence how I cook today.

When I got the chance to go to Israel on a Birthright trip, I was able to experience the fresh produce in Israel and markets like the Shuk. This inspired me to cook more Israeli foods and I have been able to adapt recipes like Tabule Salad and Chicken Shawarma into a more composed dish using Canadian ingredients.

2.Are there any specific foods or cooking traditions that you feel connect you to your heritage, religion, and/or culture?

Making latkes with my sister on Hanukkah is the cooking tradition that makes me feel the most connected to being Jewish. As little kids, our family would have a Hanukkah dinner every year where my sister and I would make and fry the latkes. As something that likely started out as a “keep the kids busy task” transitioned into our meaningful contribution to Hanukkah dinner and a time to cook with my sister. My favourite part about being Jewish (besides the food) is the sense of community that these traditions and a sense of shared culture bring. No matter how crazy the world can get, there is a lot of comfort in traditions like knowing I’ll be flipping hot potatoes with my sister on Hanukkah.

3.How do you think COVID-19 has shaped how people are responding to food and cooking?

It is evident that restaurants, catering companies and any food company associated with dining or serving people will be deeply affected for a long time. Ordering take-out food and wine is crucial to support the restaurants that you want to see around in the future.

Home cooking is a hobby that many people seemed to take up during isolation. Whether it was an abundance of time or a fear of the grocery store, people started cooking exponentially. It is exciting to see people wanting to cook at home and seeking out new recipes because I truly believe home cooking is the nicest way of enjoying a meal in terms of cost, health, and freshness of the meal. While I was isolated, I had the opportunity to teach some virtual cooking lessons to beginner home cooks and it was very rewarding to watch their progress. Learning proper tricks and tips can move a beginner from someone who doesn’t see value in cooking to someone that appreciates making themselves a good meal.

4.What strategies or advice would you give to people who are looking to take up the art of cooking during COVID-19?

Focus on the foods that you love eating, not the foods you’re used to eating at home or associate with “home cooking”. The first time I realized that all the food I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant is just a bunch of ingredients put together in a certain way to get a delicious result, I realized I could essentially make anything I’ve ever eaten. I encourage you to play this game: if you could have any food in the entire world right now what would it be? Then google it. Plan out the ingredients and make it. Or if you need help ask me for advice. Once you successfully make a dish that you love eating you will want to continue exploring and cooking so that you can eat whatever you want, whenever. Check out Maddy’s Instagram page for more info about cooking, recipes, and more! @maddygoldberg

Looking Back on...The Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 75 years later

The bombing of Hiroshima by the American military took place on August 6th, 1945, exactly 75 years ago today. The bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, resulted in the immediate deaths of an estimated 80,000 people. Three days later, a second atomic bomb, nicknamed Fat Man, was dropped August 9th, 1945, on Nagasaki, killing more than 50,000. Less than a week after this second bombing, Imperial Emperor Hirohito announced on the national radio service that Japan would surrender unconditionally to the Allies. This date, August 15, 1945, was exactly 100 days after victory was declared in the European front on May 8, 1945. August 15th would become known as VJ Day, or Victory in Japan Day, and the official end date of the Second World War.

For decades to come, the decision by President Truman to drop nuclear bombs on largely civilian centers remains controversial in both the academic and political spheres. From documents released after the war, historians understand the question was not if America would ultimately win the war against Japan, but when. Military and political leadership ultimately calculated the loss of life based on a protracted and sustained land-battle of American soldiers across the Pacific versus the loss of life in nuclear bombings. For an American military leadership still reeling from the sheer volume of casualties on the European front, the idea that a violent and vicious ground battle could be avoided was appealing to many. There were other considerations as well; some historians argue that the bombs were also dropped as a warning against the Soviet Union; while the Cold War would not dominate international relations for at least a decade, tensions were already building by 1945.

However, in the years since the end of the war, the decision to target non-combatants in highly urban regions has been regarded as an ethical failing by Truman and the United States as a whole. The effects on Japan and it’s people were horrific; not only from the destruction of the initial blasts, but the ensuing radiation poisoning, burns, mass starvation, blunt-force injuries, and cancers from the nuclear fallout. Had Truman decided to lead a ground invasion instead, the loss of life would have likely been concentrated within the armed forces of each warring entity rather than noncombatant civilians.

For many who live in Japan or have Japanese heritage, the bombings that ended the Second World War continue to be associated with devastating loss and painful memories. Photos taken in the immediate aftermath show the haunting devastation of nuclear conflicts, and serve as a reminder for military and political leadership today of the human cost of engaging in such destructive warfare.

The Warsaw Uprising and Polish Resistance

On August 5, 1944, 348 Jewish prisoners were freed from Gęsiówka, a forced labour camp located in the former Warsaw ghetto. Many of these Jewish people joined the Warsaw Uprising, not to be confused with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Beginning on August 1, 1944, approximately 45,000 members of the Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army), joined the combat and were supported by an additional 2,500 soldiers from other resistance movements to liberate the city of Warsaw from German occupation and reclaim Polish independence. Within days of the uprising, and with much fewer ammunition than the German soldiers, Polish forces re-claimed several distracts of Warsaw. However, over the course of the month, German troops recaptured the city, surrounding Old Town and other areas. In this process, over 40,000 men, women, and children were murdered. Deportations were also initiated of civilians from the city to the transit camp Dulag 121, many of whom were relocated to forced labour camps.

By September 2, the last Polish soldiers left the Old Town and the city’s historical district was destroyed. In mid-September, the Red Army occupied Praga, a district of Warsaw on the east bank of the Vistula River. By the end of the month, German forces took control of more areas of Warsaw and destroyed most of the city. By the beginning of October, the uprising had ended, and more than 180,000 people were killed and over 11,000 were captured as prisoners of war. Warsaw was liberated by Soviet troops on January 17, 1945.

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Human Rights @ Home

FSWC educators will facilitate one-hour programs via Zoom. Public workshops take place from 3:00pm - 4:00pm EST Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

Contact to register today. Zoom invitations will be sent out prior to each workshop.

What Our Education Team is Reading & Watching

FSWC's Education Team is constantly working to broaden their collective knowledge. Here's what we've recently been reading and watching:

Stay in Touch

Although FSWC's Education Team is practicing social distancing for the health and safety of themselves and those around them, you can reach us remotely at any time at