The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous selected 12 middle and high school teachers and Holocaust center personnel from five U.S. states as participants in its 2023 European Study Program in Germany and Poland from July 1 to July 15. Through lectures and visits to actual Holocaust sites, these educators gained a more profound understanding of the complex and tragic history of the Holocaust.
The program is a high-level, intensive, and immersive educational experience that includes visits to concentration camps, ghetto sites, and Holocaust memorials. Noted historian Robert Jan van Pelt, one of the world’s leading experts on the Holocaust, served as the accompanying scholar for the European Study Program.
The trip began with visits to Munich, Dachau, and Nuremberg where the group explored the buildings which once housed the Nazi headquarters and documentation centers as well as the White Rose Pavement Memorial, a cobblestone replica of pamphlets paying tribute to the ones passed out by the courageous White Rose student group that had resisted Nazi ideology during World War II.
The study program also included a historical tour through Poland and visit to the former Warsaw ghetto, the Jewish Museum in Warsaw, as well as educational expeditions through memorial sites and concentration camp vestiges, including those at Treblinka, Tykocin, and Łopuchowo, Majdanek, Auschwitz I, and Birkenau.
The group met with some of the JFR’s Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, and toured through the remaining Jewish community in Krakow, a once thriving community that has had a presence in the area dating back 700 years.
Throughout the study program, participants had an opportunity to review and reflect on what they learned during their time at these important sites of the Holocaust, and how to bring those lessons into their classrooms.
Teachers selected for the program are English or social studies teachers at the middle or high school level, have taught for at least five years, are at least four years from retirement, and currently teach the Holocaust in their classrooms. Holocaust Museum staff also participated in the JFR’s Europeans Study Program. All participants are Alfred Lerner Fellows and have completed the JFR’s Summer Institute for Teachers.
“As we continue to move further away from the Holocaust, it is more important to teach this period in history to the next generation,” said JFR executive vice president Stanlee Stahl. “By focusing our efforts on helping teachers actually see the places where these complex events occurred, we believe it enhances their understanding and enables them to be more effective instructors in their classrooms.”
“Visiting and studying at actual Holocaust sites helps teachers to better understand the enormity of the Holocaust and aids in making them more effective educators. We designed the program to help educators learn the Holocaust experientially so they can present it in a more meaningful and insightful way to their students and colleagues when they return to their schools.”
The JFR continues its work of providing monthly financial assistance to more than 110 aged and needy Righteous Gentiles, living in 11 countries. Since its founding, the JFR has provided more than $44 million to aged and needy rescuers. Its Holocaust teacher education program has become a standard for teaching the history of the Holocaust and educating teachers and students about the significance of the Righteous as moral and ethical exemplars. For more information, visit https://www.jfr.org/.
The 2023 European Study Lerner Fellows
• Kelly Sorrell, of Pitiz Middle School in Vestavia, Ala.
• Angie Thompson, of Alma Bryant High School in Irvington, Ala.
• Melinda Walker, of Holt High School in Northport, Ala.
• Robin Blalock, of Escambia County Public Schools in Milton, Fla.
• Charles Hagy, of The Benjamin School in West Palm Beach, Fla
• Alicia Booker, of Lakota West High School in Hamilton, Ohio
• Rhaymen Altagracia-Yunes, of Atlantic City High School in Mays Landing, N.J.
• Sarah Coykendall, of the Holocaust Resource Center at Kean University in Montague, N.J.
• Sue Kenney, of Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, N.J.
• Rachel Worrell, of Egg Harbor Township High School in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
• Shawn Riggins, of Cumberland County Technical Education Center in Vineland, N.J.
• Caprice Erickson, of the Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston, Texas