Year in Education, From Coast to Coast and Around the World

July 10, 2023


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FSWC Education Report
July 10, 2023

Following a busy and successful 2022-2023 school year, FSWC's education department is pleased to share highlights from the past year.

New Tour for Humanity bus launched in September 2022

The long-awaited arrival of the second Tour for Humanity (T4H) bus proved an exciting way to kick off the new school year! Both buses travelled across Ontario, visiting elementary and secondary schools to teach about the Holocaust, antisemitism, genocide and the importance of countering hate and intolerance in all of its forms.

Once spring arrived, the new T4H headed east, stopping in small towns in Eastern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, along with a visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. FSWC educators repeatedly witnessed students engaged and transformed by their learning on the T4H. Many teachers emphasized the importance of and the need for these lessons. Meaningful conversations were initiated by students who opened up and shared their personal experiences, making connections to the lessons presented.

While FSWC educators were travelling in Ontario and across Eastern Canada on our fleet of T4H buses, they also continued to deliver programs, both virtually and in person in classrooms, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.  

Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Michael Ford, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and FSWC Board Chair Fred Waks visiting T4H at a school in King City in January 2023
FSWC Educator Kim Quinn teaching students on the new T4H bus
FSWC Educator Sarelle Sheldon at a Toronto-area school, teaching Media Literacy and Online Hate workshop

In addition to the remarkable learning that took place with Canadian students over the past year, educators across Canada also engaged in meaningful learning experiences with FSWC to build their capacity and toolkit to teach about the Holocaust, antisemitism, genocide and hate in all of its forms. From professional development workshops to full-day conferences, educators heard from experts in the field of Holocaust education, built a solid pedagogical foundation to their teaching practice and walked away with ready-to-use resources for their classrooms.

FSWC was pleased to lead the first Compassion to Action for Educators Holocaust study tour through Poland. The intensive trip was captured on film, which we recently shared with our members. This year-long program will continue to engage these educators in professional learning opportunities, and offer support for the creation of their own Holocaust lessons in their respective educational settings.

FSWC education events saw participation from students across Canada. From British Columbia to Newfoundland, and everywhere in-between, elementary and secondary school students got involved, whether it was submitting a speech for the annual Speaker's Idol Competition or attending the hybrid Freedom Day event.

Freedom Day 2022
Left: Kim Phuc, "The Girl in the Photo;" Top right: Holocaust survivor Andy Réti and St. Dominic Catholic Elementary School students; Bottom right: Kairo McLean, two-time Juno Award winner
Speaker's Idol 2023
Rick Campanelli, MC; Program Sponsor Evelyn Krakauer and son Daniel; Ariel Tobe, FSWC Campaign Associate; Speaker's Idol Committee Members Michelle Glied-Goldstein, Ricky Brooks & Tracie Graff
"The Long Road to Justice: The Story of Simon Wiesenthal," funded in part, by the Ontario government

FSWC education team members Daniella Lurion, Melissa Mikel and Elena Kingsbury were thrilled to publish The Long Road to Justice: The Story of Simon Wiesenthal, a picture book biography about the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal. Funded, in part, by the Ontario government, this book was written with the new Ontario curriculum expectations in mind to support teachers and students in learning about the history of the Holocaust and its lasting impact on the survivor community. The book tells the story of Wiesenthal's harrowing survival of the Holocaust and his post-war quest for justice.  

During the writing process, authors Daniella Lurion and Melissa Mikel met with Toronto-area students to workshop the book and receive their feedback on both the story and the illustrations, drawn by Elena Kingsbury, to ensure it captured the attention of future readers. They also asked for student ideas for the title of the book. Two students who were involved , Om and Fida, suggested The Long Road to Justice - and it was an immediate hit!

Once the book was published, FSWC made a special presentation for Om and Fida at their school in recognition of their important contribution to the publication of the book. Following the presentation, the students shared the following note:

We wish to express our gratitude for including our names in your latest book. It is an honour to be a part of your writing and a testament to the care and attention you put into the book's creation. We are grateful for the inspiration that you have provided and will cherish this moment for years to come.

Students Om and Fida with Melissa Mikel at a special presentation celebrating the publication of The Long Road to Justice: The Story of Simon Wiesenthal


Holocaust survivors Vera Schiff, left, and Leonard Vis, right, delivering virtual testimonies to Canadian students

Survivor testimony remains a central component of Holocaust education at FSWC. A remarkable group of survivors, including Pinchas Gutter, Eva Meisels, Rose Lipszyc, Renate Krakauer, Leonard Vis, Gershon Willinger, Hedy Bohm, and Vera Schiff, continue to provide virtual and in-person testimonies for elementary and secondary students across Canada.

This work with survivors also leads to memorable experiences, as illustrated by an event that recently took place. Tour for Humanity director Daniella Lurion had an extraordinary experience this year after a teacher from a school in Germany emailed her to ask for contact information for Holocaust survivor Gershon Willinger.  Gershon's father had attended their school and his school records, along with those of his brothers, had been stored in the school's archive since the early 1900s. A group of students at the school discovered the connection - only the second living Jewish descendant they had found in their research to reunite with their family documents.  

Holocaust survivor Gershon Willinger, centre on screen, with Daniella Lurion, left, and German students discussing Willinger family school records found in the school archive

Holocaust survivor Andy Réti, centre, with teacher and students at a Toronto-area high school


FSWC Education Team 2023
Melissa Mikel, Director of Education; Daniella Lurion, Tour for Humanity Director; Elena Kingsbury, Senior Educator; Educators Kim Quinn, Louise Puevas and Sarelle Sheldon

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) education team has had a very busy year, working with tens of thousands of elementary and secondary school students through workshops and education events across the country, from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

While it's difficult to choose just one memory, the education team reflected on the 2022-2023 school year, sharing memorable moments.

Melissa: "I delivered a full day of programs at a small school in rural Ontario in response to a series of swastikas that had been drawn in different locations around the school.  During a short break, one of the teachers approached me to ask if we were the organization that ran the Speaker's Idol competition.  She had supported a student several years ago and said the experience of Speaker's Idol had changed this student's life, paving a new direction for her in her post-secondary career.  The teacher went on to comment that the learning opportunities we were offering - including those in response to the swastikas in the school - were truly changing the lives of young people."

Daniella: "A moment that stands out involves one particular teacher, from a small community in Nova Scotia. When I began outreach for our first-ever East Coast trip with Tour for Humanity, I received an almost immediate response from Amanda. She told me later that she jumped at the chance of having our programming in her school, even before her admin signed off. She worked tirelessly to ensure as many students as possible were able to participate and thanked us profusely for bringing the bus to her school community. It was an incredible two days, with students asking a lot of insightful questions and making connections."

Elena: "One experience that stands out in my mind was a conversation I had with an Ottawa-area high school student after our Genocide and the Power of Action workshop on the Tour for Humanity. She shared that her father was a survivor of the genocide that happened in Cambodia in the 1970s and was extremely thankful to have us teach her classmates about this crime and other genocides alongside the Holocaust. She also spoke candidly about the ongoing trauma that her father and other family members suffered as a consequence. I’m so proud that our workshops make students feel seen and heard."

Kim: "While in Sault Ste. Marie, I had the privilege of speaking with many students about Canada’s history, including periods when inclusivity and diversity were not respected. Several students confided in me after the presentations how validating it was to hear their story and history told and vindicated. As an educator, providing a platform to students to raise and share their voice is the greatest and most impactful experience possible."

Louise: "The most impactful moment of my first year of teaching here at FSWC is not confined to just one specific class or with one specific student. Throughout this teaching year, I had the opportunity to explore Canadian and Holocaust education through different cities, provinces, schools, boards, and classes. The day after my last day of teaching had the biggest impact on me because I realized how all of my training, learning, worries, concerns and teaching have been shaped and influenced by everyone and everything around me."

Sarelle: "While teaching in a small community in New Brunswick, a student, who identified as queer, expressed gratitude for our inclusion of the Nazi persecution of the queer community during the Holocaust. They disclosed personal experiences of transphobia at their school and shared the advocacy that they and their teachers engaged in to address it and promote equity and social change. Through this interaction, I was able to see the importance of representing all marginalized experiences during the Holocaust, and the significance of making connections to contemporary realities, to ensure the Holocaust is never forgotten but also never repeated."