In January of 2018 I was lucky enough to be one of the 35 recipients of the Gandel Scholarship and participated in the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators. The seminar ran for three weeks at Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel during January and was truly an unforgettable experience. Emotionally and physically demanding at times, all participants felt that their lofty expectations of the course were well and truly surpassed. With high quality lectures from secular US professors as well as ultra-Orthodox Rabbis, the Gandel course was exceptional from start to finish. The sequence of lectures, seminars, activities, and survivor testimonies allowed for successful delivery of the intense content in a manner that was respectful and appropriate for the audience and the victims. All lectures encompassed Yad Vashem’s ethos of “safely in, safely out” when teaching about the Shoah.
Some highlights included lectures and tutorials from Dr Alan Rosen, Professor of Holocaust Literature and Yehuda Bauer, one of the world’s leading historians regarding the topic of genocide. Another engaging experience at Yad Vashem was the survivor testimony from Hannah Pick, Anne Frank’s close friend, who spent an afternoon recounting her experiences during World War II.
Yad Vashem is a touching and important memorial. It stands to remind us all “never again”. From the Children’s Memorial and the Valley of Communities to the innovative Holocaust History Museum – the site is comprehensive. The museum is expertly designed, thoughtful and the opening to the view of the hills of Jerusalem at the end is stunning.
All participants felt honoured to experience the Shabbat Evening Service at the Great Synagogue with our hosts, Ephraim and Stephanie Kaye. The activities including trips to the Dead Sea, Masada, the Israel Museum, Tel Aviv and an adventure to the Golan Heights to view Syria were all memorable opportunities. I believe all participants walked away with renewed enthusiasm, increased passion for their teaching areas and a far deeper understanding of the Holocaust and how to approach such an daunting topic within their classrooms.
Several Year 10 English teachers at the School incorporated the teaching of the Holocaust into their film study of Schindler’s List. To compliment this, Saint Peter’s College was privileged to host in Week 11 of Term 1, two survivors named Eva Temple (the youngest survivor of Bergen-Belsen) and Andrew Steiner. All students were thoroughly engaged throughout their presentations and valued the unique opportunity.
I’ll leave you with a poignant quote from Romanian-born American Jewish writer, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “When you listen to a witness, you become a witness.”
Margaret Reid, Senior School Teacher