TheFuture of Holocaust Education:
PRESERVING & DOCUMENTING EXPERIENCES - INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS - RESEARCH
January27th - 28th, 2018
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies' (FSWC) 3rd Annual National Policy Conference on Holocaust Education, held in recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was a thought-provoking, educational experience this past weekend. Marking the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Saturday evening's opening dinner was highlighted by a candle-lighting ceremony between Holocaust survivors and a number of school board directors of education, followed by Cobourg Chief of Police Kai Liu's moving introduction to keynote speaker Max Eisen. Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti provided closing remarks on the evening.
Sunday's conversations were centred on the future of Holocausteducation. Honourary Conference Chair and Toronto District School Board Director of Education John Malloy, opened the day with emphasis on the importance of story in preserving the history of the Holocaust. Story moves the facts and figures of this history, "out of the head, out of theory and into the heart ... into action." Director Malloy challenged attendees to "...name injustice, challenge exclusion, foster empathy and compassion, confront discrimination and promote dialogue."
A panel of Holocaust survivors shared pieces of their personal experiences during the Holocaust along with their request for individuals - particularly in education - to carry on their legacy. "The story must be told," was the message from survivor panelists, through written testimony, video recordings like FSWC's www.neverforgetme.ca and meaningful memorializations. The panel discussion was led by Shael Rosenbaum, Principal & President of Fremont Street Holdings and Chairman of the Sarah & Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre.
Museum of Tolerance Director Liebe Geft described how museums, "the curators of memory," are already addressing the future of Holocaust education. Through interactive exhibits, displays of authentic artifacts and personalized testimonies either through video or in-person meetings, museum attendees are learning the history of the Holocaust in very meaningful ways. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Acting Director of Advanced Studies in Holocaust Education and author Wendy Lower emphasized the importance of research in the preservation of the future of Holocaust education. She explained that scholarship is "necessary and vital to the future of Holocaust education" and that it "makes [the Holocaust] a living history."
An incredible panel of educators from across Canada shared some of their best practices in Holocaust education: Bozena Karwowska (University of British Columbia), Ayesha Shaikh (Calgary Board of Education, Alberta), Michelle Phair (Regina Catholic School Division, Saskatchewan), Jennifer Gerwlivch (York Catholic Districts School Board, Ontario) and moderated by Ian Jones (Halton District School Board, Ontario). Many of the panelists contributed to FSWC's Best Practices in Holocaust Education digital publication which was released this weekend.
The Honourable Irwin Cotler gave an impassioned presentation about the lessons that can be drawn from the Holocaust. With the continued atrocities that have happened, and are continuing to happen as we speak, there is so much that NEEDS to be learned from this period in history.
In his presentation, FSWC President & CEO Avi Benlolo made haunting connections from the past to the present, identifying current antisemitic activities that are becoming all too common not only internationally, but right here in Canada. Avi's message to the conference participants: take action. Learn from the past and continue to champion these important messages.
A special thank you to conference co-chairs Esther Dressler and Michelle Glied-Goldstein for their leadership and guidance through the planning of the conference. A tremendous thank you, as well, to all of the educators, law enforcement personnel, business leaders, authors, publishers, students and volunteers who joined us in this important conversation.
We look forward to seeing you next year!