Echoes and Reflections at the Center for Jewish History

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by James Nadel, Communications Outreach Associate

A month ago, the Center for Jewish History hosted “Echoes
and Reflections
,”  a traveling program for educational
professionals that focuses on Holocaust pedagogy. Echoes and Reflections was
originally co-designed by three of the world’s most significant Jewish
institutions: the Anti-Defamation League, Yad-Vashem (the Holocaust museum of Israel) and the USC Shoah Foundation.
Since 2005, the program has traveled all over the world to “enhance educators’
content knowledge” and to more generally encourage “critical thinking through
the study of the Holocaust.” 

On Sunday, March 13th, Echoes and Reflections
representative Sheryl Ochayon arrived at the Center to promote this message and
help those in attendance bring the story of the Holocaust to their schools and
institutions. Her audience included teachers primarily from the New York City
area, but also a few non-locals from as far away as Denver. Over the course of
four hours, Ochayon offered advice on approaching the complex topics of this
history – including the history and origins of anti-Semitism, and the
experience of liberation from the concentration camps. Throughout her
presentation, Ochayon pointed to interesting options for teachers to consider
when approaching these subjects with their students. For instance, when
discussing anti-Semitism, Ochayon brought up many examples of Nazi propaganda,
and then prompted her audience to consider examples of propaganda that they had
experienced in their own lives. Gathering such responses from students would
allow them to better understand anti-Semitism and its affect on Jews throughout
Europe. 

With her, Ochayon brought the several Echoes and Reflections
handbooks, which were free for program attendees. At a solid 281 pages, the
handbook includes 10 entire lesson plans covering everything from the rise of
the Nazis to the death camps themselves to the foundation of Israel in the
aftermath of World War II. In addition to background information, the handbook
also seamlessly incorporates literature and fine arts into this history. A
description of the Lodz Ghetto is followed by a poem by Avraham Koplowicz .
A section on life in the concentration camps is illustrated with Ainovii
Tolkatchev’s painting Appell .  These primary accounts and depictions
supported something that Ochayon wanted to emphasize: the Echoes and
Reflections approach seeks to describe the Holocaust through the eyes of
individuals; the real people who experienced it. Indeed, the handbook often
refers to video testimonials by Holocaust survivors (each of which is available
through the Shoah Foundation website) that illustrate specific points of the
lesson. 

With this idea in mind, the program at the Center featured
an hour-long tour of the Lillian Goldman Reading Room with Senior Manager for
Reference and Outreach Melanie Meyers and Reference Services Librarian Michelle
McCarthy, who showed the group a few choice items from the Center’s partners’
collections related to the Holocaust. This “pop-up” exhibit even included an
issue of der Stürmer, an anti-Semitic
Nazi periodical that Ochayon had actually mentioned in her presentation and of
which the Leo Baeck Institute has a comprehensive collection .
 The newspaper’s hideous caricatures of
Jews, hinted at in our discussion of anti-Semitism, made a strong impression on
those on the tour. The object gave the group another window into and a tangible
representation of the reality of life leading up to the Holocaust. Several
visitors remarked that they would take the experience back to their schools,
and that they hoped to be back soon with student groups.

If you are interested in arranging Echoes and Reflections to
come to your institution, see this site

If you are interested in scheduling a student group visit to
the Center, please contact Melanie Meyers at mmeyers@cjh.org

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