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Reflections on Professor's Study Tour to Jerusalem, written by Dr. Robin Gordon
Recently I had the privilege of taking part in the 2010 Echoes and Reflections Professors' Study Tour, Jan-6-16, at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Jerusalem. Echoes and Reflections is a curriculum that was developed by the Anti-Defamation League, Yad Vashem, and the USC Shoah Foundation. It focuses on assisting secondary educators to teach the challenging issues surrounding the Holocaust. It is especially useful for history and English teachers, although the lessons can be adapted for other content areas.
We had the privilege of hearing from some of the top Holocaust scholars such as Simcha Stein (Ghetto Fighter's House), Dr. Alan Rosen (English lit and worked with Elie Wiesel), Ephraim Kaye (Yad Vashem), and Shulamit Imber (Yad Vashem). In addition to becoming more familiar with the curriculum, classes covered many aspects of the Holocaust story. The rise of anti-Semitism in the 19-20th centuries, Jewish life in pre-war Europe, Jewish armed resistance, Hitler's so-called Final Solution, and the horrors of the death camps were covered deeply and with great care for historical accuracy.
Three Holocaust survivors, Hanna Pick, the friend in Anne Frank's diary, Pesach Schnidler, and Ruth Brand also talked to us about their experiences in Auschwitz-Birkenau and during Kristalnacht. One of the most impressive things I noted about the survivors was their hope and joy for the future. They were willing to tell their stories to help educate their listeners, to relate the stories of courage they witnessed, and to help people understand that this terrible chapter in human history must become conscious to the world if it is to be prevented from happening again.
Yad Vashem's Institute for Holocaust Studies was a wonderful place to hold the classes. We often shared the classroom building with Israeli high schools students as well as IDF soldiers. The complex has grown considerably in the last few years. Participants were able to tour the main museum, the art museum, the Children's Memorial, and the Hall of Remembrance just to name a few. Furthermore, in order to place the history of both the Holocaust and Israel in context, we had the opportunity to visit the Western Wall, Masada, the dead Sea and Sea of Galilee, Great Synagogue, and many of the Christian churches in the Old City. We also had some time to walk around old Jerusalem which resulted in a colleague and I being allowed to enter the Ethiopian Church located in West Jerusalem. The history is palpable and walking on streets that one reads about from Biblical times was surreal.
The Echoes curriculum is presented to our teacher candidates who are completing their credential. I will also be introducing a few lessons earlier in the methods courses. This was a wonderful opportunity and I know all the participants were grateful to the donors who underwrote this study tour.