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Jewish Journal

ADL successfully expands Holocaust education workshop

by Ryan Torok

November 1, 2011 | 8:48 pm

For nearly 30 years, Los Angeles secondary-school educators have attended the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual Holocaust Education Workshop as part of their professional development. During the month-long series, L.A.-area teachers learned the history of anti-Semitism, listened to survivors’ firsthand stories and visited local Holocaust institutions, leaving them better equipped to teach the Holocaust to their students.

This year, the ADL has revamped its workshop to appeal to educators pressed for time as well as those who might feel that they might already know enough about the Holocaust. Renamed the Holocaust Education Institute, the workshop’s emphasis this year is on multimedia approaches to teaching the Shoah, increasing the convenience factor by stretching attendance over five months and allowing educators to attend as few or as many sessions as they like.

The overhaul of the program is exciting — and necessary, said Amanda Susskind, ADL Pacific Southwest regional director.

“There’s a certain point in any innovative program’s life where it’s like the same people who are interested in it have already gone to it one or maybe even two times, and you’re starting to really struggle for membership and attendance,” Susskind said.

“The four-night thing was starting to get hard to sell … [and] if no one is coming, I’d rather change it to get more people in the room,” she said.

Until 2009, the program included four weekly sessions, each lasting about four hours, and attendance for all sessions was mandatory. Last year, the ADL squeezed the four workshops into one week.

Starting this year, the ADL is stretching the program over five months.

Serving as the kickoff event for this year’s program, the ADL will hold a seven-hour seminar, “A Multimedia Framework for Teaching the Holocaust,” on Nov. 4 at USC, followed by four four-hour sessions at various sites.

Co-sponsors for the Holocaust Education Institute include the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education; the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance; the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust; and the Center for Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance.

Experimenting with the content and structure seems to be paying off for the new Holocaust Education Institute. Alison Mayersohn, senior associate director of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region, said registration numbers are up. The Nov. 4 session is almost filled — nearly 60 people had signed up as of Oct. 28 — and Mayersohn said the attendance for the following sessions looks to be strong.

Katharine Guerrero, a teacher at Alverno High School in Sierra Madre, an all-girls Catholic college-preparatory school, has participated in several ADL Holocaust education programs for teachers in the past several years, including the organization’s Bearing Witness Institute, an overnight seminar that teaches the Holocaust to parochial schools. Guerrero said she plans to attend the Nov. 4 kickoff event.

“I like hearing this stuff over and over again for some reason,” said Guerrero, who has woven what’s she learned at these workshops into her classes — world religions and U.S history — at Alverno. She said the chair of her school’s theology department recommended that she get involved with the ADL workshops.

“I really took the [workshop] curriculum and I found a way to adapt it across the curriculum with my theology and world history course and my United States history,” she said.

During the Nov. 4 “Multimedia Framework for Teaching the Holocaust” at USC, an ADL staffer will introduce and give a sample lesson from “Echoes and Reflections,” an award-winning multimedia curriculum that features a DVD of survivor video testimony with accompanying maps, photographs and poetry. The curriculum is designed to be used by high-school teachers in various subject areas.

After the “Echoes” lesson, teachers will learn how to use iWitness, a new Web-based application for teachers and their students – developed by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute — that has 1,000 unedited survivor testimonies. Each video on iWitness has been indexed, making navigating the testimonies easier.

Dan Leshem, associate director for academic outreach and research at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, also will lecture on “Holocaust Denial, Multimedia and the Internet.” 

The four remaining sessions — offered from Nov. 17 to March 15, each beginning at 4:15 p.m. — closely resemble what the ADL has offered in previous years. These workshops are: “The History of the Holocaust,” during which attendees will tour the Museum of Tolerance and examine artifacts, including a four-page 1919 letter by Adolf Hitler that documents his anti-Semitic views; “The History of Anti-Semitism,” featuring a discussion on Catholic-Jewish relations; “Teaching the Holocaust Through Art,” highlighted by a tour of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, where teachers will view a picture diary of the Theresienstadt concentration camp; and “Making the Connection From Past to Present,” which will include discussions on genocides in Rwanda and Darfur.

This is also the first year that teachers can attend as many, or as few, workshops as they like. However, LAUSD educators and librarians must attend the four sessions after Nov. 4 in order to qualify for one unit of Article Six multicultural credit. A book review, a lesson plan and an overall reflection on the course are also required for the credit.

The kickoff session at USC is $20 per person, which includes meals, materials and parking. Individual sessions after Nov. 4 are $15 each, or $50 to attend all four.

For more information about the Holocaust Education Institute, visit this story at adl.org/lah olocaustinstitute.

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