the shoah and Jewish identity: How Can Shoah Programming Reinforce Informal Jewish Education?

How can Shoah programing reinforce
informal Jewish education? Before I ask the… I’m going to ask…
This is how we’re going to do it. I’m going to ask each one of you
to introduce yourself and to speak a little bit,
two minutes worth, on the program, and then I’m going to ask the question, and everyone will have a chance
to answer the question. Oh-ho! Does everyone have
simultaneous French here? I will speak slowly. Bonjour. Before we begin,
this is a panel on informal education. So, as a way of introduction, one of the things that I do
in my position in Yad Vashem is travel around
the Unites States and Canada, and eventually Australia
and South Africa, and I speak to mostly formal educators. And universally,
almost without exceptions, the formal educators are asking us,
at Yad Vashem, to come up with a program
that will allow them to venture into the informal educational arena. Because there’s an almost
universal sense that informal education,
education that takes place not in this venue, but in ways that people can
perhaps be more themselves, or creativity has a greater role, is almost more effective
than the traditional dissemination of information. So these programs
are really very essential for the future of klal Yisrael,
the future of the Jewish people. And without further ado,
I would like to ask them to… I’d like everybody on the panel
to introduce yourself, and just speak very briefly, as I said,
two minutes on your program. So let us begin with Sasha. Hello. Hi, my name is Sasha Friedman.
I’m from Hungary. I work in the Jewish community of Budapest, and I work for the Joint, for the JDC. And I’m the head of the Szarvas
International Jewish Youth Camp. And the two of us, with Mina, we’re representing this camp
in this conference. Briefly about our camp, it’s an international Jewish youth camp
located in Hungary. It was established in 1990, 26 years ago, with a goal of building, or rebuilding, the Jewish identity
in Central Eastern Europe, which, by that time, completely, or almost
completely in some places, were destroyed or oppressed, first by the Nazi regime,
and then by the communistic regime. So, in the moment of,
let’s say the first sparks of freedom, this camp was established. And today, it grew out from beyond
all the imaginations of the first years. We have 1,600 campers from 30 countries
coming every summer to Hungary from North America, Canada, US,
India, Turkey, and all over the world. And they spend 12 day sessions with us
learning about themselves, learning about their Jewish identity,
learning about their communities. And this is also one of our focuses, to build the communities
which they represent. For many campers,
this might be the first, or the only, Jewish experience
during the year time. So more or less, this is the project, and I’ll pass it on to Mina. Hi. I won’t repeat things that Sasha said,
I’ll just introduce myself. My name is Mina,
and I come from Serbia. And I spent, at Szarvas Camp,
more than half of my life. I was there as a camper,
as a “Hanicha”, and also as a counselor,
and now I work as a program director. Hello, my name is Barbara Spector. I’m the founding director of Paideia, which is an institute
for Jewish studies in Sweden, but it’s for all of Europe. It was actually probably,
I don’t know, maybe the only, but certainly an institute founded
because of the Holocaust. The non-Jewish then Social Democrat
Prime Minister of Sweden in 1990, Goran Persson, was terribly ridden,
I can’t say guilt-ridden, but troubled by the Holocaust and the fact that
Sweden was, so to speak, neutral during that time. And he did three remarkable things. He established what was called
the Stockholm Forum, and I just Irwin Cutler, he was there. He established…
He had a booklet printed on the Holocaust that was sent to every
Jewish household in Sweden. And the third thing was
that he established Paideia with the notion that something besides the tragic loss of life and property
in the Holocaust, there was also a culture that was lost. And Paideia was given the mandate
of recreating Jewish culture in Europe. Now, how you do that,
of course, is a different story, and maybe we’ll talk about that
as we begin to discuss things, but we now have 600 graduates
from 40 countries, one of whom is Mina, sitting here,
of whom I’m very proud. And it’s meant for a post graduate level,
on a masters level, people that we call,
many of whom we call, dis-assimilators. I think a notion to be kept in mind whenever we become concerned
about assimilation, we should also realize
that there are many people stepping forward as adults
and dis-assimilating. I’ll speak about that later. Sorry, thank you. My name is Nan Schulman,
I’m originally from Russia, and for the past eight years
I’ve been living in Europe. I’ve been involved with the Limmud
Conference for the past 10 years, and I was one of the founders
of the “Limmud Russia”, which happened 10 years ago this year. Last year, 2016,
we had our 10th anniversary. And currently we are running
three conferences in Russia itself, in Moscow, in St. Petersburg
and in Volgorechensk, and also the Limmud Conferences
in Belarus and Ukraine. Now, for those of you who are
not familiar with Limmud, and I do believe almost
everyone is familiar nowadays. Limmud is a grassroots initiative, and it’s been aimed
towards the high quality, intellectual programming
for the young adults mainly, but also for all kinds of people,
for the seniors as well, and for the teenagers,
and for the youths. And Limmud has been organized now in…
I think, I believe 40 countries, including the United States,
and Australia, and Canada, and Great Britain where it’s originated. And Europe,
and even China. So, for the past two years,
three years, we’ve been running the “Limmud FSU”
Former Soviet Union, which is an initiative geared
towards the Russian speaking Jews in the countries outside Russia. We do have an Israeli Limmud, which,
right now I believe is going on in Eilat. But it is mainly in Hebrew, and in Limmud FSU
we are aiming it and marketing it towards Russian speaking population, Jewish population of the Unites States,
Canada, Australia, and now from 2017, Europe. We’ll have the first Limmud FSU Europe
in London in February of 2017. And in Russia, our last conference
in 2016 in Moscow was the largest ever. We had around 1,500 people participating
for three days, outside Moscow. And Limmud is unique in the sense
that Limmud is not governed by anyone or anything except Limmud itself. We’re all volunteers,
we all have jobs, and this is something that we do
on a volunteer basis everywhere, in every country
where there is Limmud, it’s run by volunteers. And therefore,
this is one of the, I believe, you know, one of the most exciting things
which is happening with the Jewish community since we’re not governed
by any organization. And, you know,
it’s a self-governing thing. And we do provide very high quality,
we try to provide very high quality, informal Jewish education
for the adults. So, good afternoon. My name is Tamara Lowenfeld,
oops. I’m originally from Argentina. I made Aliyah to the United States
like 25 years ago, and I’ve always been
in Jewish education. I’m currently the Director
of Lifelong Learning at Temple Beth Am,
in Miami, Florida. This is a reform congregation
of 1,500 families. And I basically direct religious school from pre-K to 12th grade. And oversee all the youth programming. I consider religious school, and I know that
this is going to sound kind of weird, but, informal education. We have about 300 kids that come and basically we have them for 27 weeks. They usually come
after school or on a Sunday. So the way we teach cannot be frontal, cannot be formal,
but the way we need to engage them and their families, because after all,
the idea is not just to teach the kids but to engage the family as a whole, is by having conversations,
discussions, and the Holocaust
is part of the education. It’s part of our history,
it’s part of our heritage. We have a Judaica high school
that we call Monday Night High, and one of the things
that we decided is, there is no One Size Fits All. We cannot just teach to
just one type of students. There are different needs,
different interests. There are some kids
that are actually coming to the junior high to have more of
the social exchange with other Jewish teens, there are others that want
more of the intellectual. To be fed intellectually. So we are offering
different kinds of courses, whether they’re going to be intellectual
or more social, to… What is it? To satiate their thirst of knowledge,
of Judaism. Knowing that Judaism
is not just a religion, it’s a culture, it’s a people,
it’s a nation, it’s a state, and so forth. I’m also the lead educator
of the March of the Living in Miami, and as such, we prepare our teens
for a journey of a lifetime. Those kids are going to be traveling
to Poland and to Israel, and their life is going to be changed. But, because we are coming
from a multi denominational city, we have orthodox
all the way to secular. And we need to bridge the gap in between
the many different denominations. So, we work a lot
about the Jewish identity, trying to understand that there
is not just one way of being Jewish. You can be Jewish,
and you can be considered Jewish, whether you keep Kosher,
or you did Aliyah, or you go to summer camps,
or you go to religious school or day school. But it’s very important
that we accept each other, and we welcome our differences, and we celebrate them. So. And so it’s fair to say,
what I heard from all of you, is that almost all your programs
certainly are invested in Jewish identity. With all these great opportunities, where people can self-discover, and hopefully plug into
their Jewish heritage. Is that a fair statement?
Good. Is it a fair statement
to say that all of you have an element of Shoah education
in that process? So if you could just…
This is the next question. Could you identify the goals
of Shoah education? Is the goal of Shoah education to further Jewish identity? Or is there an additional
or separate goal, independent of Jewish identity, that functions in your program? In our camp, in Szarvas,
we have a different theme, a different topic that we discuss every summer with kids. And no matter what the topic is,
it can be Jewish lifecycle, holidays,
whatever it is, we try to incorporate
two topics always into the topic. It’s Israel education,
and education about the collective memory, the Holocaust, Shoah education. So, within the big framework of the camp we find ways to put
Shoah education inside, and to have it as one of the things
that we offer to the campers, as part of the Judaism
that they come to learn and meet. And we try to provide them
with the opportunities that they can choose what
is important for them and what is relevant for them,
and with what they connect, in order to deepen
their Jewish identity. Wait, Mina, let me just ask,
why do you include Shoah education? Why those two? I think that, first of all,
having a Jewish camp and not talking about the Jewish homeland,
it’s simply ridiculous. So Israel has to be part of the agenda. Because? Because it’s an important part
of Judaism. Like, it’s…
-An essential part. It’s an essential part.
It’s like, it’s a central part. It’s like, if you would ignore that fact it’s also a statement that you don’t want
Israel to be part of your education. Like you exclude it.
So it has to be a part. Now, what is important,
what Mina said, she didn’t start with the Holocaust, she said “with the collective memory”. What we try to achieve in the camp,
is that we teach Jewish history. We teach things which connect
all these 30 countries, their lives, their history,
their ancestors, their roots,
right? So this is what we teach. And when we talk about Holocaust,
and we talk about the Shoah, we’re mainly focusing on two things. One, what lead
to the happenings of the Shoah, and what did we learn from the Shoah? There were years in the beginning
when the camp was established, I know that it sounds bad,
but there were excellent Shoah memorials. Excellent. Kids were crying. Okay, there were excellent pictures,
there was a show, there were videos, like, it was very emotional. And then we said,
this is not what we want. We don’t want to scare them. The majority of the trips
which are dealing with the Shoah, it’s about, okay, be sad, okay?
Remember and be sad. So what we wanted to achieve,
and we changed the program that way, we teach the process. How it could happen. What are the signs in history
which led to this specific point? And also,
what did we learn? For example, in the previous year during the day which was dealing
with the collective memory, we were talking about Korczak. And as Korczak,
we spoke about the values of education, the value of kids, the knowledge, how to stay human
even in the hard situations. So basically, there was not even
one word talking about Shoah, casualties,
Nazis, basically we were talking about
a story of a man and his education, and his beliefs. Obviously, later on, with the years,
when they come back and they grow in the camp, our youngest
participants, by the way, are six, and the oldest are 18, so they come back for many years. With the time,
they will have additional portions. And these portions will come together
into a full picture, what they can also receive in the camp,
or they can go to March of the Living, or they can come to Yad Vashem,
and so on and so on. So you use Shoah education
to enforce and, perhaps, exhibit, or show examples of Jewish past? Yes, in a way, yes.
-Alright. I’d like to be a little bit provocative. Please. -Okay, because something
quite provocative happened at Paideia. This Paideia was formed 16 years ago, and as I say, we bring people
on a post graduate level. It’s informal in the sense
that these people live together for the year,
in an intensive… they go to the same classes,
do the same things, are talking together. The second year, a woman from…
Actually from England, I’ll just quickly tell you,
we want to recreate Jewish culture by making people,
first of all, literate. So there’s 14 semester courses
in Jewish text, and then we also add Jewish guilt
so that they can become innovators. We all say everybody has
to graduate with the project. The second year,
a woman from England said to us, we had a course in Holocaust literature. And she said, “You know, we’re here about
recreating Jewish culture. “I don’t want to hear Holocaust”. She said, “I don’t want this to be
the way in which we’re recreating culture”. She said… She had had what you call,
I suppose, Holocaust fatigue. Maybe she was singular in that she was… But the rest of the group, this was
the second year, joined on with her. They all, they said, “We’ve lived
the Holocaust. We come from Europe. “We know it.
We have our stories. “Please, let us recreate Jewish culture. “Let us see what was lost in that sense. “But we don’t want Holocaust to be
a part, a formal part of our…” Which was very powerful, by the way. Let me tell you,
I’ll just quickly tell you where and in what way
it’s been alleviated. The first way has been,
first of all, through Yad Vashem. In other words,
even though the students, and again,
these are people average age 30, that didn’t want to formally
be introduced to the Holocaust, they said they knew it. Interestingly enough, of course,
everybody was extremely informed by their own country’s narrative. The fellas from Poland, even though
Jewish, have not felt that they’ve been, as Polish, victims, of course,
of Nazis, and so forth. So it was tremendous,
the exposure to Yad Vashem. But there’s two really important places in which Holocaust education
has become part of their identity. One is in our cooperation
with a Muslim college, a college on a higher level. Because they’ve,
in interacting with students, those that do,
have to present the Holocaust. Really, obvious… to people who now feel persecuted,
Muslims. To also be able to bring in
the Jewish experience, but not in a triumphalist way. Not that we’re
the greatest sufferers at all. Obviously. Given the
Palestinian-Israeli background, that has to be kept away from it. We’re not talking about
who’s suffering more. But the interaction with Muslims
has been profound. As far as inculcating Holocaust
into their own identity, and then last year, too, we started
something called Speaking Memories. In which we met with survivors
and studied with them for a day, which was really,
I think, remarkable, because they were groups
according to languages. They were language groups. And that interaction also has been… But I must say,
and this has been interesting, because I want to be the one,
perhaps not myself, but nevertheless representing
the warning of Holocaust education. And those who feel,
especially as adults, that that is not where they want
their identity to be based. It is in the sense, the Holocaust
becomes the overwhelming tragedy it is, from what I can glean from
the Paideia graduates, when they understand
the culture that’s been lost. But Holocaust education per se without that knowledge, I think, and again, I’m speaking in their voice, I think produces a type of imbalance
which they feel very uncomfortable. By ‘Holocaust education’,
you’re referring to? Well…
-The timeline, the factual events? The factual events.
The factual events, but also, of course, the aftermath of the sense of living
with the ghost of Jewish culture. Because you said that you teach the absence of the Jewish culture
that was lost. Yes, that it is.
-That’s a very positive experience, also. Yes, but the Holocaust,
for them at least, again, this is adult, this is on an
adult level, so it’s different than… But on an adult level,
they have to have a deep sense of what Jewish culture is,
to understand what’s been lost. Of course. Well, I have two points here.
First of all, you know, the format of Limmud is
very different from the format of even very formal Jewish education. Why?
Because every single one of us sitting here can go to Limmud and present a session
if you so, if you want so. And, you know,
it’s the question of choice. People choose, they see the program, they see the presenters,
they see the topics, and they choose where to go. In Limmud, you are not forced,
you don’t have to go anywhere. If you want to come to Limmud
and spend three days sitting in a bar, and you know, socializing,
that’s fine as well. It’s a personal choice
of every participant where to go. And it’s a personal choice
of every presenter what to present. Now, you might want to ask, and here in the audience
there are some people who have been presenting
in Russian in Moscow Limmud, now, you might want to ask how do we,
as the organizers, choose what presenters put in the program, and what presenters
won’t put in the program. Because obviously,
we do have the wealth of… you know, people wanting to present. We do try to accommodate everyone,
really. We do try, sometimes,
there are people who want to present, I don’t know, 10 sessions,
or 15 session, during three days. This is their chance. So we try to explain that
one or two will certainly be enough. But generally, everyone who wants
to present can do so, and any topic
connected with the Jewish education, with the Jewish culture, with the Jewish
world, with the Jewish tradition is gladly welcomed. Now, we do, you know,
obviously every Limmud we have people presenting the Holocaust. In all, you know, shapes,
and forms… starting with the lectures
and going to the round tables and going to the art presentations, and you know, performances
and all kinds of things. Now, this brings me to my second point, and this is kind of, you know,
going to what Barbara has said. And I’m not going to read a book, no. There is a very famous philosopher
of the past century, and the present century
as well, George Steiner. Now, George Steiner, in 1967,
in his book Language and Silence, which is a very famous book, Essays on Language, Literature,
and the Inhuman. He was writing about the language,
he was a philosopher-linguist, he was concerned with the language.
And Steiner himself is Jewish, and he’s almost a hundred
years old now, right? So he’s Jewish, and he is not
technically a Holocaust survivor, but he could have been because his family
escaped from Paris to New York just, you know, before 1914. Now, in his essay on Kafka,
he writes the following, “The world of Auschwitz
lies outside speech, “as it lies outside reason. “To speak of the unspeakable “is to risk the survival
of the language as creator “and bearer of human, rational truths. “Words that are saturated
with lies or atrocity “do not easily resume life.” And then he continues
with saying that language… “Use of language to conceive,
organize and justify Belsen, “use it to make out specification
for gas ovens, “use it to dehumanize man
during the 12 years of “calculated bestiality and
something will happen to it.” Now, this brings us to the core, really. And the core is,
how do we speak about the Holocaust? What language do we use?
And can we use any language which is a human language? Why?
Because any human language, you know, if we speak about the words that we use, what kind of words do we use
in order to convey what we want to say? And in my experience in the past
20 years with informal Jewish education, speaking of Holocaust in particular, the people who are educating,
the educators themselves, they have problems with the Holocaust. Now, I’ve seen many cases,
and I’ve been doing it myself as well, when you come to the audience, when you come to the teenagers,
or the young people, or the adults, without resolving your own issues first. You’re bringing your issues
to the audience, and the audience feels it. And with the children, and with the
young people, it’s especially visible. And therefore, the problem,
I think, in the formal education of the Holocaust,
is to be able to speak with the audience using the language that people
would feel comfortable with. And for this,
we have to learn to say the things that we feel. Feel rage. We feel despair. You’re afraid.
You want to cry, you cry. You want to laugh, you laugh. Name the emotions. And in many cases, what we do, and I don’t know
if people would agree with me, but we hide behind the information. There’s lots of information, there are pictures,
there are numbers, you know. Look here, look there,
there is a PowerPoint, there is a movie,
you know, let’s look at it. We hide behind it because we are afraid to come in front of the audience,
or to sit next to them and just say, this is how I feel. This is my pain. This, I’m afraid to talk about it, I have problems talking about it. But I have to. Let’s talk about it together. And this is a great, you know,
question of whether we are prepared to come with our feelings
to an audience. And I, just to finish up,
you know, I’ve been writing fiction for the past…
I don’t know, 10 years. I wrote four books,
and I’m writing the fifth one, and when I was writing
about the Second World War, only… before that, for 20 years,
I’ve been doing, you know, education. Jewish education, Holocaust education. Only when I started to write, I actually realized
that this is how I deal with my own emotions,
with my own feelings. And therefore, we should encourage…
“should” is a bad word, really, we might want to try to encourage people
to talk about what they feel. Not only the numbers,
not only the pictures, the blueprints, the whatever, you know.
But just, you know, to discuss things. In my experience,
the discussion, the language, this is what brings
this whole thing alive. So… you ask about what’s the purpose
of teaching Holocaust education? So religion school is very short, in terms that we don’t have
the kids every day, and there are so many
subjects we need to teach, that it’s very hard to select
what is the most important. We have curriculums per grade,
and they’re basically theme based. But, we cannot dedicate
a full year to the Holocaust. However, I feel that the Holocaust
must be incorporated, in age appropriate ways,
to some of the grades. We begin with Holocaust education
starting in fifth grade, but not year-round. Basically, we bring Kristallnacht
and Yom Ha’Shoah, and it’s not… We do a ‘Tekes’, we do a ceremony. But before doing a ceremony,
we worked with our students about specific themes. I was very lucky to be here
on the 10 day seminar for Jewish educators during the summer, and I got home with a wealth of resources,
which I’m very thankful. And we utilize a lot of those posters
to spark questions. I think that education is the medicine for the illnesses of the world, and if we educate our kids, we’re giving them tools. With education comes knowledge, and with knowledge we are
preparing our students to make educated decisions. We cannot expect our kids
to have a Jewish identity if they don’t have the information. If they don’t have the knowledge. But information is not enough. Everybody can find information, you just go to Dr… Rabbi Google,
right? And you get it. However, if the information
comes with questioning, and wrestling with things, then you’re able to reflect
on the learning, and conceptualize
what is actually relevant for you. So we want out students to be able to make those decisions. But in order for them to do that, they first need to start learning. Just as an example, after working with posters
on Kristallnacht, then we talked about
life before the War. And the idea of talking about
life before the war was trying to understand how similar,
or all the similarities, that children in the United State had
with children in Poland, and in Germany, and in Europe in general
before the war. We gave them pictures
of Jewish artifacts, and asked them to create
their own stories which they presented. And afterwards, we told them
the real story behind it. But what we did as an exercise
before the actual ceremony, we asked just one question. And the question was, “If you had the power to rebuild
part of our Jewish history, “which artifact would you
choose to rebuild, and why?” So again, they cannot find
that information by themselves if they don’t have the tools. So first of all, we gave them the tools by giving them pictures
of those artifacts, and then we’re letting them self-explore so they can bring
their own meaning and relevance to the theme. Again, education,
personally, brings values. We need to be very clear what are we trying to achieve
with what we are teaching. Are we teaching just for the sake
of showing what history… how history happened? Or is there a fundamental value
that we want to instill in our students? So every lesson plan is designed
with a Jewish value in mind. And very, very often,
that Jewish value connects with a universal value that the students
are able to connect to. Okay, so let me go with that
for a minute. -Sure. You said you had a project where
you taught kids about Kristallnacht, in order for them to be able to connect
to pre-war Jewish life, showing similarities between
kids today and kids then. What value are you trying to teach them? And why do you feel that the Shoah
was the means to achieve that? Well, Kristallnacht is about the Shoah.
Number one. What’s the value? You said
there was a goal. What’s the goal? Okay.
So, when teaching about history, first of all,
it’s very hard for a student to think about what
happened 70 or 80 years ago. So, by connecting life before the war, they’re going to realize
that there were many commonalities. We talk about youth groups. Okay? There was ‘Hashomer’,
there was the Bund, they were all. And we have NFTY, we have NCSY,
we have the, what is it? The BBYO, and so forth. Those things are things that the kids
are able to connect to. So the goal is to get the kids
to connect to something Jewish? It’s to be able to connect
to that part of history, to think, to realize that it’s not foreign. That there were a lot of things
that are happening to us, that we did after school activities the same way that kids in
Germany had music lessons, and sports, and all kinds of things. And that it’s not that they were
in Shtetls, and they were in Yeshivas, all of them,
there was a diverse group of Jews. The same way that in America,
we have a diverse group of Jews. And talking about
the richness that existed there. And there is also richness
in America as well. So, it’s not that there is
just one value, I’m trying to actually think what value
I would connect to that. But, Kristallnacht is about ‘Zekhor’. It’s about…
connected with ‘Am Israel’, connected with our history,
with our tradition. But basically remembering, remembering is a big part of us. Let me ask the question to the camp, sir.
Right? Do you agree with it? Do you agree that the idea of remembering
is an important Jewish value? Yes. -Why? Why?
-Do your kids come with… Do you feel they need
to connect with their past? In order to create a Jewish identity, and does the Shoah help you do that? Or, does it make them afraid,
and you know, it’s not good. Our main goal, for them to have experience, positive. To have a positive Jewish
experience in the camp. Whatever it is. If they learned to bike in the camp, it happened in the Jewish camp. If they learned about the past,
it happened in the Jewish camp. If they learned to pray in the camp,
or they make Aliyah because of the camp, it’s part of the Jewish experience.
Just a second, I’m just… for us, educating about
memory and about history is one of the tools to achieve that. It’s not a column for our education. It’s not that if we skip one year, the teaching about Shoah will fail.
It will not fail. Like, we have other tools as well.
So for us, teaching about the common history,
the past, the historical moment, it’s one of the tools to achieve
our goal to build their Jewish identity, which is sometimes
happening from scratch. Do you think kids are proud of this
when you teach it to them, and they’re exposed to different
scenarios, different things like that, that creates a sense of pride in them? Or is it you’re hoping? You know,
this is sort of a hit and miss? I’m not sure about that. I’m sure that there are participants
who are also proud about that, but I think that there are more
of those who are kind of more enjoying the present. The present and the fun,
and being in the Jewish environment, surrounded with international Jewish
friends and learning about themselves, and first time ever put the Kippah on
and be happy about that. Yeah, so that’s what I’m asking.
Sounds to me like bringing up the Shoah might be not, you know, not the thing. Kid comes for a good time, you say, “Okay, let’s just take a couple
of moments and think about Auschwitz”. Well…
Being in camp, I think what’s different when kids come to camp,
they come to have fun, to enjoy. Not to talk about Auschwitz. What we do in the camp,
we provide different methods and different tools… To?
-And different scenarios, for them also to learn
about this part of history, about Shoah. The way we do it, it’s much different
than what they learn in school. Whether they’re attending public
schools or Jewish schools. It’s a completely different
way of education and… So that’s what I want you to talk about.
-So… So, they have, depending on the age, because it’s important
to be age appropriate. We have kids who are 15, 16 years old, and for example as
Sasha mentioned earlier, last summer we talked about Korczak. And we give them tools
to discuss that period of time, to discuss Korczak,
to discuss orphanage, to discuss values of education and then they themselves
find themselves in the situation where they’re having
this serious discussion about Shoah,
not realizing that, not… maybe not obviously realizing that they’re talking about
this period of time. And coming after the program talking: « Oh remember what we did, “this was, whatever,
a great activity that we did.” And this is something
that is very powerful and very important for us,
because they come out of it not necessarily,
you know, we sit them down, “Now it’s serious,
let’s talk about Auschwitz.” But we take different stories,
different people, different circumstances,
and we try to incorporate it into the, like,
bigger framework of the camp. So let me just,
that sounds pretty pleasant. A kid will come,
and they have multi opportunities to learn and maybe
something will inspire them, and et cetera, et cetera. And these are your grads?
This is a part of your program. This is what’s called Holocaust fatigue? No. Before you get to Barbara,
just one comment. We teach about, as I mentioned before,
I don’t want to repeat myself, we teach about, for example,
the process. Okay? Process of what?
-The process where it can lead when human goes against another human. Or, discrimination, or closing your eyes
on things happening around you. And one real example of where
this type of education leads, when there was a big wave of refugees
coming to Europe, not so long ago. And they were staying in
one of the train stations in Budapest, because they were not let
anywhere to go. Our ‘Madrikhim’, our educators,
were the first ones from all Budapest, from all Budapest,
first people who went there, collected the kids
from the train station and played football with them
and table games with them. Because they understand,
nobody told them to do that. They understood that they have to act, because this is the time
when they have to act because they know where it leads, when they are the ones
who are closing their eyes. And this is…
– Thank you Sasha. You’re welcome.
-You finally hit it. Man, you finally hit it. This is, so you have a goal. You want them to be better people. You want them to be sensitive. You want them to understand
that what starts as a word might end up, God forbid,
as something different. That’s not only with Shoah,
that the camp’s around. And that’s the camp itself. And the
Shoah is a vehicle to accomplish that. Sounds to me, again,
like a pretty good thing. But I don’t understand how those people…
-Okay, well, let me now finish the story. Okay. -Okay.
The same woman who objected. I think that… I’m overwhelmed
over and over again by the way, with what the most
powerful educational tools that I’ve ever, ever witnessed
that is distinctly Jewish, and that’s the notion of ‘Hevruta’.
Not only in how to study text, but all together
the encounter with someone else. That somehow text becomes alive, and you are alive, and I think
that I had true encounter with that. This same woman who objected,
in encountering people from all over Europe,
who embedded in them, is not forgetting history.
You can’t forget history in Europe. It’s not like, you know,
Norman Potter said many years ago, you know what distinguishes America? History is no longer a
normative I think he hit on it. One of the strengths of America has been
that you can leave your past behind. Now, you do it out of great risk, but also with great advantages. In Europe, that is not the case.
Your past comes with you. And people, at Paideia,
encountering other people with their pasts and the fact
that each of these pasts means when one way or another,
here we are at Hannuka, the notion of ‘Lehitgaber’.
People have overcome, have not forgotten, have incorporated with it, but are each one in and of themselves
on a historical level living with the Holocaust
and beyond the Holocaust. I think that that is a powerful tool. In other words, it was embedded in what, at least in Paideia,
but often in European education, is part of our education. We’re not forgetting the Holocaust. It’s there,
and we can educate with it. But unlike America,
where it has to be brought, and somehow made alive. I grew up in America, and I know
all the things that were done. Some of them rather crude,
educationally. I must say, I’m sure it doesn’t sound
at all like what you’re doing. But somehow to produce emotion,
to make people feel. In Europe, I think we have to confront
and encounter our history, but I think also, the encounter,
what each person who is found, has lived with the Holocaust,
and is able to go on, I think is a remarkable
educational tool. It has to be brought forward,
I don’t think that we can let it just be all together… how do you say? Somehow merely implicit. There also have to be moments
in which it’s explicit. But I think there’s a lot
in the human encounter that can make ipso facto living in
New York, a Holocaust education. So that sounds like the
Shoah narrative really, parts of the Shoah narrative,
are very much an ideal vehicle for you. Because to a large,
that is the story of overcoming… But the real test is the refugee. And the real test
is the oppression right now of Muslims in Europe, that’s the test.
-What is the test? The test is, are the Jews empathetic
with Muslims? -Absolutely. Okay. And do you find a better vehicle
than the Shoah to teach that? No. -Oh?
-But it does, yeah, okay. No, obviously, obviously. I mean that’s…
-Nothing is obvious. Well, it depends on what you mean
by education. I mean… Bringing person from point A to point B.
-Okay, okay. It’s a little bit… right, of course.
It’s a little bit different with adults. Not much.
-Yes it is, because there’s, look at education,
it’s something presumptuous that one has to be aware of.
In other words, I was just at… for those of you who have
seen the movie Denial, that talks about Deborah Lipstadt
and her court case against David Irving. So, look, Deborah was,
it was just released this week at Cinematheque here in Jerusalem,
and Deborah was there. And someone asked her, what do you want your students,
she teaches in university, what do you want your students to learn
from the Shoah? And she says, if I have to tell them,
then I haven’t taught very well. Okay. -Okay, that’s the difference
between adults… -But that’s an adult. That’s the difference between.
That’s where I’m looking to go. So let me ask,
she’s speaking about adults. Limmud. It’s in the news now,
there’s a Limmud Conference going on, oh, it’s thousands of people
are going to Limmud. These are adults. And you said that people can
come and pretty much give any type of course. You just have to approve it.
-Yes. How many, let’s say,
an average of Limmud conference, which is what, four, five days?
-Three. Three, oh.
How many classes are offered? I’m sorry. All together?
-Yes. About a hundred, 120.
150, maybe. Let’s say 150, -Yes, yeah.
-Cause it’s easy to call, yeah. How many of the 150
would you say are Shoah related? About 15. 15?
– One tenth, yeah. -One five.
-Yes. Now… -One tenth, one tenth of 150.
-Oh, 10%. -10%, yes. Okay, yeah. But 10% of classes
are Shoah related? How are they in terms of attendance? People choose to go to those classes?
Are they full? -Depends. It depends on two things.
Three, actually. It depends on the time slot,
because some time slots are just more popular,
that’s a logistic question. 3 in the morning, things like that.
-Morning things, you know. Eight o’clock in the morning. Right, the second one is the
personality of the lecturer. You know, the personality
of the presenter. So let me ask you a question.
-Yeah? The people who came to the Limmud
for the most part, are not necessarily people who have
extensive Jewish education? -No. No. -So how do they know
who the lecturers are? Because, you know, these people are, you
know, all over the media, and you know, the media personalities. If there is
a famous journalist whom we see on TV and who is Jewish, and he, you know,
comes, and you know, speaks about my own personal reflections on the
Jewish history or the Holocaust, people will flock to this lecture
because he’s famous. You have five classes at three o’clock?
-Yeah. Or just one class?
-Oh, no, no, no. There is, like, in every,
you know, like, time slot, there are five or six classes.
So you have a choice. So again, how did the Holocaust…
-Well, again, you know, it depends. If it’s a famous personality who people
know, and you know, have seen on TV and heard about him. I don’t know,
Barack Obama, you know, whatever. Right, so people would
come and listen, right? If there is somebody who is less well
known but the topic is interesting, for example, you know somebody would go
and do the theater training workshop, on how do you, you know…
We had a class Limmud , there was woman who did the
theater training workshop using the Diary of Anne Frank
as the vehicle. And that was very popular. You know,
people came and they wanted to do drama and, you know, it was for three days,
three parts, you know, we had great attendance there.
Now, if the person is less well known but the topic would be interesting,
right? Or, if you know, a theology professor
would talk about Paul Salon, you know. We have a very great number of
intellectual people coming to Limmud for whom it is an intellectual
challenge, rather than, you know, fun, put it this way. So they would go
to this kind of presentation, this kind of lecture.
-I’m sort of asking then… -Yeah. Not the super star?
-No. -Right, not the personality, No. -To what extent does the Shoah,
as a subject, drive your participants? It does. It does.
People are interested. What are they looking for? They, partly, you know,
there are two things. A lot of people are
looking for information, because they don’t know the information. They don’t know,
they would go and listen because this is the basic things they, you know, we’re dealing
with people over 25 now, the age, well let’s say in Russia, 25 to 40,
they have, you know, used camps. They’ve had trips through Eastern Europe.
So they know. People, you know, in their 40s, some of them wouldn’t know
a great deal of things, so people come for information.
-Let me ask you something. Are you familiar
with Russian education versus European to say why is it the Russians are not
burdened with that sense of, you know, World War II identity, like you said,
in Europe they can’t leave it behind. It’s something that they
have to grapple with. It sounds to me like in Russia,
that might not… Is that the case… Well, it depends, you know. The kids,
you know, we talk about the children. Children wouldn’t go,
because children have World War II, you know,
all over the school curriculum. And they’re not particularly
interested in that. The adults, you know,
on the other hand, they are, you know, they graduated
from school 20 years ago, they have forgotten everything
they’ve been taught, and therefore, they are more interested
in the particularities and the information. Now, on the other hand, there is a group
of people who know the information, and they’re, you know,
aware of the Holocaust and everything that was happening,
and they come to express emotions. They come to talk about their things. I just wanted to… to draw a… I would say, a parallel
about how different America is in terms of the Holocaust. I have to be very careful when I do
something about the Holocaust because the parents are so protective,
that they don’t want their kids to be hearing things
that are going to be traumatic. So, when I had a ceremony for Rabin which was the anniversary
this past year, and we had Kristallnacht,
and I would have Yom Ha’Shoah, and I’d make sure that I invite the
parents so we also educate them. And they are aware that whatever we’re
going to be doing is age appropriate. Yeah. How about you?
Do you find that parents are concerned when you approach subjects
as you’re exposing these kids to Judaism, that might be,
or lead to, scary, or the Shoah, no matter
how you approach it, there is that element.
Is that a concern? Do you have parents concerned? Or staff concerned? First of all, the parents of,
let’s say 15 years ago. Until 15 years ago, these were
the parents who have been, let’s say, the best camp they were, maybe it was
a Scout thing type of camp during the communistic regimes.
This sort of camps they know. So when, through their kids,
they explore their Judaism or they build their Jewish identity, basically, they were
happy about everything. Like, they were happy that their kids
are in the Jewish environment, whatever we will teach them then,
they will be happy about it. So basically, and that was the dynamic,
more or less, in Centeral-Eastern Europe,
that the kids took back the knowledge to their families. They started to teach their parents
about the traditions of Judaism. Parents of today, many of them
were former campers of Szarvas, so they grew up in the camp.
They know exactly the agenda, they know our goals,
they know how we build the identity. So, those who have been
through this experience, for them this is obvious, okay? It’s not that they’re happy
about it, this is obvious. This is what is needed for their kids to stay active in the community,
to go back to the camp with their kids into the family camps
and so on and so on. So the approach is different. Still, there are communities who are
afraid to send their kids to Hungary, or to Szarvas, for the reason
that they become too religious. Right, that they will be brainwashed. This is their fear.
Not that the things… People don’t come to Yad Vashem
for the same reason. So they’re afraid for their kids
to be brainwashed. There are also those who are afraid
of the security, let’s say, or the safety of their kids
during their camping experience, seeing what’s happening
in Western Europe. So when they send their kids there,
they have a lot of questions about security, safety, whatever. They never have concerns
about the educational content or agenda, or what we teach to them. They trust.
-They trust us. Okay. Now I’d like to ask a
little different question, that will perhaps impact
more on the younger kids, but has ramifications. Sometimes as educators,
we want to get bang for our buck. Right? Sometimes to be a little
provocative is a great educational tool, right?
Or, well, we saw it today, right? Everyone was talking about,
you know, Jewish identity, challenges, one guy said maybe we should
have an orgy instead of a lecture, everybody started laughing and zoom, it was zeroed in on that guy
for the rest of the time. Right? It’s a strategy. The Shoah, we’ve all agreed,
in one form or another, is a draw. It’s something that interests
our clientele. Whether it’s the people who
have to live in conflict, or whether it’s teaching
that rebuilding quality, or whether it’s engaging in discussion
that will allow them to plug into their history. Or whether it’s allowing values
to be exhibited. Do you ever find that you want,
or you need to… Help, dramatize, create an environment, that will enhance just the narrative? Let me try to give you an example. I’ll give a related example, right? We all… in camp, do you Tisha b’Av In camp?
Okay. So, I don’t know how
many people went to camp, but those of you who went to camp,
it used to be, I don’t know if it is anymore,
they don’t let me in camp anymore. But it used to be that,
you know, we have popsicles. Right? So everyone would have popsicles,
they came on a little wooden stick. So, kids would eat the popsicles,
eat the popsicles, eat the popsicles, save the sticks.
Why? Because they would have it
as a camp activity, it would build a big building
with popsicle sticks. So the kids would lick
the popsicle sticks and bring them in,
and they’d build the big building, big,
200 or 300 kids in camp. Every kid brings, you know,
a hundred popsicle sticks, and the building’s big, and they
paint it, they make it beautiful. And then on Tisha Be’Av, right? At Tisha Be’Av
they come with sad faces. Right, carrying a torch, and they walk over to the building
that the kids spent time building, and they set it on fire. And they say this is what
it’s like at the time of the Temple Burn. Now, is it manipulative?
You betcha. It’s very manipulative. But you know what? There’s always
those kids that start to cry, and the counselors…
alright, we did it. We made them feel something. Ever had something like that
ever happen, in terms of Shoah
and how do you deal with it? Or how do you avoid it?
Or do you not want to avoid it? Or do you want me write down these ideas
for you that you can take them. Great ideas, thank you. I think I said it from the beginning
that we had memorials like that. We had memorials when we had
Shoah survivors coming talking to them. There was a bonfire. There were programs which were
very professionally built programs. There were drama, acting, and playing,
and movies, whatever. We basically killed our own… Camp’s dynamic for one or two days,
kids were not, they were useless. They were in the mood that we couldn’t
bring them back to life. And then we understood that we have
12 days to change their life, to build that identity
will not destroy their mood, or will not create these dramas
which will make them cry. This is not the goal. This is not… -So you avoid
manipulation. -We avoid manipulation. We focus on education,
and mainly using, I’d say… let’s say things that kids can chew
and have… Not to be choked by… by the information
or by the methods we use. We don’t want to scare them
of being Jewish and whatever it is. To what extent, let’s say in
the Paideia program, Barbara, is… in your case obviously
it’s not a manipulation, but I am speaking in
post theological responses to a group of Paideia groups…
But to what extent do you, let’s say, turn to the Shoah
for emotional impact to counter-balance
a purely intellectual, or do you not? Well, I think,
again we have the great advantage of, because they’re adults, of literature. I want to emphasize the importance
of Holocaust literature. We don’t have to stage anything. And I think, especially from adolescents
I would say, the claim is that literature is one of
the greatest ways that we learn to recover life. And I think even more so
of the Holocaust. I think that our being able
to bring to people the literature,
to encourage the reading ,to… there have been magnificent things
that have been written. I don’t think we have to stage anything. But it’s also brought,
and I would… Forgive me, I would like to sort of
counter that type of literature with history per se. I think the personal
literature involved in film and written literature and so on, is in itself a tool that I think we must
really begin to respect. Would you prefer a documentary
over a Hollywood spectacle? You know, there’s one
one hand, you might have Night in the Fog, and on the other hand
you have Schindler’s List. Schindler’s List is psychologically
geared to make a certain impact. They spent hundreds of thousands
of millions of dollars to do it. Night in the Fog is a documentary film. Again,
what I prefer? As an educator, what do you use?
-An educator? We use, I think, the personal
written testimonies of people. I think I could, you know, some of the
books that have been written, I think, look at when Elie Wiesel,
may he rest in peace, transformed the world in 1962
with the publication of Night. Until then, it hadn’t really
impacted the Western world. I think what he did,
I think we have to respect, that’s just an example. I think his words and the words of
people who experienced the Shoah, are the greatest tool that we have. Of course, we need the history
and the background as well, but as far as world impact,
it doesn’t have to be staged. But you also are going for that
emotional punch, big one, too. -Yes, look,
I don’t like Hollywood. Forgive me. I do feel manipulated. That’s, again, dealing with
adults is very different. What’s your experience
in terms of a balance? I’ve been doing the adult education
for the past eight years, you know, and it’s much easier than
working with teenagers and adolescents. With adults, you don’t
have to do the tear-jerking you know, production of emotions.
Why? Because, you know,
adults in my experience, they can deal with their own emotions,
you know. They can… You said they don’t.
-No, no, wait, wait, wait. They can deal when you teach them how
to do it, when you show an example. When you encounter them with a text,
and you read the text, and you know, even the documentary,
the documentary texts like, you know, whether Auschwitz, you know,
could have the Russian Army, you know, liberation of Auschwitz,
and you know, accounts of that. Just, you know,
very dry things really, you know? Army officers were writing
the list of purist We can have the survivor’s testimonies,
you can have the pictures, and one picture is more than
a thousand words, as you know. So people, when they see an educator, dealing with it, and telling
them, listen, this is the picture. I can tell you, I have, you know,
I have my own personal experience. In Hamburg, there is a place
which is called Bullenhuser Damm There the children who were murdered,
that were brought from Auschwitz, there were, I believe, 12 children. And they were used for the
inhuman medical experiments. The Nazis were studying tuberculosis. And they were hanged, you know,
they were given the lethal injections, and some of them were hanged in this,
you know, it was a Catholic school, they were just brought there. And… the pictures of these children
are on the internet and everything, and this very small group
of children, really, if you compare it with the vast
1.5 million of children killed. But this is, as I say to my, you know,
classes or whatever… These are my own, personal children. This is something
that I feel connected to, right? I feel connected to every other story of Shoah
as well, but those are… this girl, Rachel Morgenstern,
I feel connected to her. Those… I know their names by heart. You know, this, and I think
every Holocaust educator has this thing that made,
you know, him or her Holocaust ” alive”.
You know? And when you come to the audience with
this thing, and you say this is mine. This is what, you know,
some people have step stones in Germany, you know… They’re very small, really, you know,
but they are personal. And when you’re not afraid
of opening up, and saying that this,
this book by Paul Salam, you know, when I first read it,
I was 19 years old, and I cried. And then I felt sick, literally. Physically, right? When you are not afraid
of opening up to the audience and saying this is what I experienced. This is normal. We all experience things
in relation to the Holocaust which makes us afraid, makes us cry. Run, never hear about it again,
never see it again in our lives. But this is normal, this is how our body and our mind
reacts to the emotion of it all. And once we open up,
it’s easy for the people to open up as well. Like that. Again, you talk about
education as the process, you know,
in the informal education, as lifelong learning
they call it, you know. It is a two way street. You don’t stand
in front of the audience, deliver the lecture, and then go out. No. You know, if you do that,
you will get information to the people, but they won’t feel any emotion. On the other hand,
as you said, you know, coming to where they torch the building
and you know, provoking the emotions and making people cry. No. People are going to react in a way, you know, emotional stuff. Alright, they want to react in a way
they feel appropriate to react. And our goal as educators is to say that any way or reaction
is really appropriate. Cause I have people
storming out of the audience, you know, saying,
“I don’t want to hear about it.” “That’s it.
This is not why I came to Limmud.” You know, “I came to have fun.” Sorry, you know, bye. Bang bang.
That’s their choice. So therefore, we have to be prepared for
that, for this kind of reaction as well. Tamara, I want to focus your
question on this a little differently. Because I know, first of all,
you’re coming from an American community. While there’s been advantages,
there’s many challenges. And one of the challenges
is just drawing the crowd in, right? You’re in Kendall, South Florida, right? Where I think there’s
350,000 Jews in Kendall? No, less.
-What, 300 now? 250? In Kendall, no.
In whole Miami site, 200. Okay let’s say 200,000. How many kids come to your program? I have 180 from kindergarten through six. And that’s considered a large program?
-Yes. That’s the largest. – And you work hard
to get those kids? – What, I’m sorry? You work hard to get those kids?
-No. No? They come automatically?
-Yes. Because Bar Mitzvah is the carrot. So how about after Bar Mitzvah,
how many kids? There is a big drop. There’s a big drop.
-Yes. To what extent do you try
to plug into emotional, in other words, I don’t know,
I’ll say manipulation. But I don’t like to say it, because right
away it’s going to make you say “No, we would never do that”.
-I can tell you what I’m doing. First of all, I’m completely
against manipulation. I think that it’s about
provoking with the questions. I think that you could ask
those big wide questions where there is not
a right or wrong answer, but will make them think. Now, America suffers of
Post Bar Mitzvah Syndrome. Basically, religion school is the avenue
to be “Bar Mitzvah-ed”. And once you get Bar or Bat Mitzvah, there is a big drop
in synagogue membership. And then, they go in,
up again with confirmation, but I would say that maybe half of those
‘Bney Mitzvah’ come back. There is a big pressure
to enter to college. There is a big pressure to be able to
look at the best after school program where you are a president of a club, or you have a position
in a specific program. Or you’re a ‘Madrikh’ or ‘Madrikha’, so it shows consistently
of a specific thing. And it is getting harder and harder to get into good colleges, because the competition
is really, really big. So for instance, what I did is, usually after confirmation
which is in 10th grade, I have a big, big drop, and I would say
that most… nobody stays. So what I created is
a social justice team fellowship to incorporate social action, which is something that every student
in America needs as community service, and Jewish text. What does Judaism teach
about a specific value? Let’s say, feeding the hungry,
respecting elders, food injustice and so forth.
So… And we made this program
limited to 12 participants, where we ask the applicants to actually apply writing an essay, getting letters of recommendations
from counselors or Rabbis. And we have a full cohort. And we’re able to inspire
them with our Jewish values, and also do,
and be part of doing things. I want to thank all of you for coming
and sitting on the panel. Does anyone have any questions?
For anyone on the panel? Any questions for anyone on the panel? Don’t be shy. I want to thank you all, you were
terrific, and once again… informal education is something that… and it’s a very important part
of the Jewish educational experience. You now have a break for half an hour. Thank you very much.

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