Here's what the Education Department at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) has been up to over the last month.
As 2022 draws to a close, we reflect on the incredible start to the school year and the amazing students with whom we have had the privilege and pleasure to work.
While there’s much to be concerned about with the rise in antisemitism, it’s important not to lose sight of the incredible things also happening in classrooms across Canada.
Take the Grade 7 class at St. Dominic School in Oakville, for example. After hearing Holocaust survivor Andy Réti speak, students there took the "Never Again" pledge, committing to "never again" stand by in the face of hatred and intolerance. Not only have they committed to taking action, but they are also calling on our government officials to do the same. The students have been writing to members of Parliament and Provincial Parliament, asking them to stand up against antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate.
In a recent letter, their teacher writes, "My students have never been so engaged and committed to creating a world where freedom means the right to be who you want to be, free of intolerance and discrimination of any type. Particularly, when we study current events, and see the frightening acts of antisemitism in the US with entertainers, and attacks on innocent senior citizens in Toronto, we want to do more!
"In my two decades of teaching, I have always believed that the future is now, and that our children do not have to wait until they are older to make their voices heard. I am pleased that your education department also shares that belief. In that same vein, I wish to relate how impressed I am with your organization. I have never witnessed an organization as relevant, dedicated with the right outreach tools and people as you possess. Moreover, young people are typically used as window dressing of inclusion rather than full participants in shaping the present for a better future. Your organization treats young people with respect and sees them as full partners in change."
This is how Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center measures impact: one school, one class and one student at a time!
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
FSWC is pleased to welcome an audience back to an in-person conference in recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday, January 26 and Friday, January 27, 2023.
Chaired by Angela Terpstra, Bishop Strachan Head of School, the conference will feature, on Thursday, keynote speakers Edward Westermann (Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany) followed by Jenna Quint and Holocaust survivor Gershon Willinger in conversation with each other (Intergenerational Trauma). FSWC will also be recognizing four educators who have demonstrated excellence in Holocaust education, followed by a dinner.
Friday's lineup of workshops has been curated for classroom teachers. Dominique Trudeau, Montreal Holocaust Museum's Head of Education, will lead participants in a workshop that looks at incorporating artifacts into classroom Holocaust lessons. Melissa Mikel, FSWC's Director of Education, will lead the second session on how to teach the Holocaust through stories, spotlighting relevant picture books and young adult novels.
The Tour for Humanity has been covering a lot of ground this fall! Our recent stop in Sutton, Ontario was featured on CBC's The National.
Whether we are in Sutton or Toronto, North Bay or Windsor, Ottawa or Sault Ste. Marie, the questions we hear from students demonstrate thoughtful minds engaged in the topics which we are discussing. For example, during a Global Perspectives workshop a couple of weeks ago, a few students from a Grade 10 history class did not know what antisemitism was. Their willingness to be vulnerable and brave enough to ask this important question allowed for a meaningful learning opportunity around antisemitism, past and present, as well as its harmful and lasting impacts. It is conversations like these that counter hatred and intolerance and work to foster a more respectful and inclusive society.
These conversations will continue to happen not only across Ontario but across the country as we plan our eastern tour in the new year.