NJ educators hone Holocaust teaching skills

NJ educators hone Holocaust teaching skills

Gene Woods discusses Holocaust education at the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous program at Columbia University.
Gene Woods discusses Holocaust education at the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous program at Columbia University.

Holocaust educators from New Jersey were among 28 teachers who completed an intensive seminar at Columbia University on the principles and methods of instructing their middle and high school students on the Shoa.

The program was sponsored by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, whose mission is to “provide financial support to aged and needy non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust and preserves their legacy through a national education program.” The foundation named the 28 as 2016 Alfred Lerner Fellows. The fellowship’s namesake was a banker who was the founding chair and chief executive officer of MBNA Corporation and a long-time supporter of the foundation and its Holocaust education programs. 

Among the NJ teachers were Frank Stebbins of Arthur L. Johnson High School in Union and Gene Woods of Bayonne High School; they were sponsored by the Holocaust Resource Center at Kean University in Union. Michelle Eddleston of Neptune High School was sponsored by the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. The others were Kimberle Bruckno Moore of Middle Township High School in Cape May Court House, and Kelsey Shockley of Pleasantville High School; they were sponsored by the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton University in Galloway. 

The fellows were chosen from among applicants who have taught English or social studies for at least five years, are at least five years from retirement, and currently teach the Holocaust in their classrooms.

From June 26 to 30 they joined scholars from places as disparate as Croatia and Poland as well as American locations including Baltimore; Palm Beach and St. Petersburg, Fla.; Houston; Overland Park, Kan.; Greer, SC; and Birmingham, Ala. 

As 2016 Lerner Fellows they delved into the complex history of the Holocaust and discussed new teaching techniques for introducing the subject of the Holocaust into their classrooms. None of them is teaching in a Jewish day school. 

Through the seminar, participants met with such Holocaust survivors as Roman Kent, who is also the JFR’s president, and noted scholars, including Volker Berghahn, Doris Bergen, Jeffrey Burds, Lawrence Douglas, Henry Feingold, Peter Hayes, Michael Marrus, Avinoam Patt, Alan Steinweis, and Alexandra Zapruder. 

“Holocaust education is mandated in today’s public school curriculums, but there is often a void in resources available to teachers to implement the lessons in their classrooms,” said JFR executive vice president Stanlee Stahl. “We designed the Lerner Fellows program to help educators learn the history of the Holocaust so they can present it in a more meaningful and insightful way to their students when they return to their schools.”

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