The Importance of Holocaust Education During Turbulent Times

December 1, 2016

During OJMCHE’s closure, our Education team has been on the road.  Holocaust Educator April Slabosheski and members of the Speakers’ Bureau have presented programs in over 40 schools, libraries and churches, led workshops, and offered guided tours of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. Along with scheduled visits, OJMCHE is a quick response resource for schools that experience instances of hate speech—as recently happened at Lake Oswego High School.

When Lake Oswego HS reached out to OJMCHE for help in educating their students on lessons of acceptance, respect and tolerance, April looked to the Speakers' Bureau, which is comprised of Holocaust survivors, refugees and descendants who are trained to share their family stories with students and other groups. In thinking through what might be the most critical lessons to offer, April noted,“ that it was essential that we impart to the students the need to speak up and to not be a bystander.”  Speakers’ Bureau member Jeannie Smith spoke to 1400 Lake Oswego high school students in early November. Jeannie is the daughter of Polish rescuer Irene Gut OpDyke who received international recognition for her actions sheltering and rescuing Jews during the Holocaust while working for a high-ranking German official. Jeannie shared Irene’s story and the way in which one person’s actions can make a difference.  As she eloquently urged the students, “stand up against hate in all forms, be willing to step up, speak out, and become actively involved in showing love, compassion, and human decency to all.”

Along with coordinating the Speakers’ Bureau, April has recently worked with students in Hillsboro offering a workshop that explored how legislative processes in Germany led the rise of the Nazi Germany. This participatory workshop had students matching anti-Jewish laws to a timeline, demonstrating how the slow passage of dehumanizing laws led to an environment in which full-scale genocide could take place. The activity also juxtaposed the Third Reich with our legislative system in the United States today, and explored steps we can take in opposition to oppressive and dehumanizing measures. 

OJMCHE is proud to work side by side with the state’s educators and many of the teachers that work with OJMCHE have long standing relationships with the Museum, as is the case with teacher Carly Clark in Eastern Oregon. This year to provide her students with a foundation and understanding of the Holocaust, she reached out to OJMCHE and recently hosted a Holocaust speaker in her school, in addition to bringing  students on a field trip to Portland to explore the Oregon Holocaust Memorial with a trained tour guide, learn about Jewish culture at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, and contextualize their study of Elie Wiesel’s book, Night. 

On December 3rd OJMCHE welcomes educators from across the state to a workshop on Elie Wiesel’s Night from the internationally renowned Holocaust education curriculum, Echoes and Reflections, plus a bonus sneak peek of the beautiful new home.  Information on the workshop can be found here. For more on OJMCHE’s Speakers’ Bureau visit this website.