Penn and ADL Partner for Holocaust Education

Penn and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Philadelphia presented a half-day workshop to introduce teachers and future teachers to “Echoes and Reflections,” a multimedia Holocaust education curriculum designed by the ADL and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.

“Echoes and Reflections” links Holocaust education to the importance of challenging bias, bigotry, and scapegoating in society today.

Workshop participants included Philadelphia public school teachers enrolled in Penn English Professor Al Filreis’ “Teaching the Holocaust: Bearing Witness” class, part of Teachers Institute Philadelphia. Several students from Penn’s Graduate School of Education also attended.

Randi Boyette, ADL regional education director, facilitated the workshop, guiding participants through the curriculum and the supporting “I-Witness” website. Held in Irvine Auditorium’s Café 58, the session incorporated stirring video interview clips of Holocaust survivors and a concentration camp liberator from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive.

Penn is the first university in Pennsylvania to provide access to the entire Visual History Archive of nearly 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust in 32 languages and from 56 countries.

Currently enrolled students, as well as staff and faculty, can access the Archives from any computer on campus. Private viewing spaces are available for anyone from the general public who wishes to access the Archives at Van Pelt Library.

Penn President Amy Gutmann addressed the group, reflecting on Penn and the ADL’s shared commitment to Holocaust education.

“By educating, we not only remember,” Gutmann said. “We also teach others to think critically about how the Holocaust came to be. We share the awareness, the tools, and the passion that are necessary for fighting bigotry and genocide now and in the future.”

Gutmann said that she feels “an incredibly, deep personal connection” to the value of the educational opportunities made available by the Shoah Foundation Institute. Her father fled Nazi Germany in 1934, eventually emigrating to the United States, where she was born. “Nothing seems that hard to me because of what my father went through,” she said.

Empathy was a word that was repeated in discussions on how to address student questions about Jewish resistance to Nazis.

Stacia Parker, a high school English teacher at Parkway West High School in West Philadelphia, said, “The reason I’m here is to teach my students to develop empathy and compassion. It’s important to learn about genocide, but more important to become active in the struggle to help others be free.”

As the session stretched into early evening, the group broke matzo bread together at a dinner to mark Passover. Each attendee received a certificate of participation at the conclusion of the workshop.

Text by Jacquie Posey
Photos by Peter Tobia