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Preparing for our 2013 Summer Institute for Teachers

Alexandra Zapruder and Stanlee Stahl

Alexandra Zapruder and Stanlee Stahl

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Life at the JFR has been hectic to say the least.  We are busy making final plans for our 2013 Summer Institute for Teachers.  This year we will be welcoming some 25 educators from across the United States, Poland, and Croatia.

The JFR is fortunate to be partnered with 15 outstanding Holocaust centers.  These centers nominate middle and high school educators to attend the JFR Summer Institute which is held the last week in June at Columbia University in New York City.

More to following on our scholars and our teachers.

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Learning at the Summer Institute for Teachers

2012 Alfred Lerner Fellows

Here at the JFR we are settling in after another successful Summer Institute for Teachers. This year’s institute included 28 teachers from throughout the United States and from Poland and Croatia who joined us at Columbia University for 5 days of intensive scholarship. The caliber of the teachers’ enthusiasm, dedication, and devotion to Holocaust education was truly inspiring.  Additionally, the lectures given by each of our 10 visiting scholars were thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating.  One of the wonderful aspects of this program is the opportunity for teachers to network with one another, learn from each other, and share useful teaching tools and resources. If this year’s cohort of Alfred Lerner Fellows is any indication, the future of Holocaust education in America looks very bright


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Concluding the Program: The Final Day

Every year we conclude our program with an entire morning with Professor Robert Jan van Pelt.  Professor van Pelt engaged the teachers in an intense discussion about the study of the Holocaust, covering a range of topics from the inner-workings of Death Camps to a discussion on when the Holocaust began. 

After this intense morning, we had a working lunch to wrap up the discussion.  Participants were then given “open mic” time, where each one spoke about their experience participating in the Summer Institute, and what they will bring to their classrooms from the week.  Each one of our European teachers invited American guests to visit them in their home countries, and plans were made for a reunion. 

We concluded the program after lunch.  It was an exceptional Summer Institute, and I am already looking forward to SIT 2012!

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Learning about Resistance and Rescue: Day 4

Today was another jam-packed day of incredible speakers.  Professor Sam Kassow gave an eye-opening lecture on Jewish life in ghettos.  He talked about the Judentrat, the Jewish governments of the ghettos, and the challenges they faced.  Professor Kassow also talked about Jewish resistance movements – there were many forms of resistance and Jews were forced to make “choiceless choices” to try to survive.

In the afternoon, scholar and survivor Dr. Nechama Tec spoke about her story of survival,  and her books on rescue.  Professor Tec talked about how she was able to survive by being hidden by Christians who were paid, and also by pretending to be a Christian.  Many of our teachers have already ordered a few of Professor Tec’s well-known books!

To close the day, I spoke on Rescue and teaching Rescue in context.  It is critical to teach about these Christian and Muslim heroes, who so courageously risked their lives to save Jews.  Keeping rescue in context is critical in order to understand the gravity of their actions. 

Tonight we ended with our closing dinner at Bello Restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious meal and warm conversation.  Some wonderful friendships have been made, and I am so glad that participants want to stay in touch with each other not only as colleagues but also as friends.

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Covering New Ground and Probing Further: Day 3 of the Summer Institute

This morning we began with a tour-de-force from Professor Jeffrey Burds, who lectured about the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.  Professor Burds focused on the major differences in how Jews were persecuted in Eastern and Western Europe, explaining his thesis on why the Holocaust was carried out so brutally and openly in the East. 

After discussing the lecture in break-out groups, participants were able to absorb what was learned and once again present ideas to each other on how to incorporate the subject matter into a lesson.

We then heard from Sheila Hanson, a former teacher who now works at the USC Shoah Foundation.  Sheila walked our teachers through the Shoah Foundation’s testimony library, and showed teachers how the Shoah Testimonies can be used in the classroom. 

Finally, we got to hear from our beloved Board President Roman Kent, a survivor, who told his incredible story.  Roman is a paragon of goodness, and we were all incredibly moved by his story.  We also had the pleasure of seeing his wife, Hannah, who is also a survivor.  Roman closed by reminding us that love has no limit, and there is no place in our life for prejudice. 

After his lecture, each teacher got a copy of Roman’s book, Lala, which was gifted by Roman himself.  Everyone lined up to thank Roman and get their copies signed.

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Gearing up for the Summer Institute

Our annual Summer Institute for Teachers at Columbia University is just a few weeks away, and we are busy preparing for it at the JFR office!  This year we will be welcoming 35 new Lerner Fellows from our Centers of Excellence, The Intergovernmental Task Force, The State Department, the Auschwitz Memorial Museum and the United Nations Outreach Programme.  We will have a new scholar in attendance, Alexandra Zapruder, author of Salvaged Pages, and Sheila Hanson from the Shoah Foundation will be speaking about her work.  We will also have our roster of top-notch scholars that have lectured in years past.  We look forward with great anticipation to our five days of learning and discussion at Columbia University.

Lerner Fellows from SIT 2010

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