Engelwood–On Sunday, October 26, The Moriah School will be hosting a free workshop to enhance teaching and enrich learning of the Holocaust through the use of artifacts and technology. Attendees will learn how to design and run Heritage Fairs in their schools. The event is sponsored by The International Study of Organized Persecution of Children (ISOPC)/Child Development Research (CDR), Yeshiva University’s Azrieli School of Jewish Education, the NJ State Commission on Holocaust Education, the Council of Holocaust Educators, and the Jewish Link of Bergen County.
The Moriah School, which is hosting the event, pioneered the concept of Heritage Fair in 1995, under the direction of Dr. Karen Shawn, then middle school assistant principal for secular studies and the creator of the Fair; and Moriah School English teacher Rachel Schwartz. Schwartz has continued to design and present a Heritage Fair at Moriah each year to wide acclaim.
According to Dr. Karen Shawn, the director of education at ISOPC and now visiting associate professor at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School, the Heritage Fair is “a highlight of the year and appropriate for public, private, charter, and parochial school students in grades 6-high school.” When asked why using artifacts specifically, Shawn said “[Artifacts] bring us a bit closer to the reality of a world we can hardly imagine. As we examine these tangible objects, we may empathize, perhaps reflecting on an artifact we own, an object that we hold dear, that represents a time in our life that can be better understood by knowing its context. Empathy is a path to understanding, to wanting to learn more–and that is, after all, a most important goal of Holocaust education–to have our students want to learn more.”
Similarly, Dr. Eva Fogelman, CDR’s co-director and a licensed psychologist who is a consultant to Jewish Family Service in Teaneck, emphasized the importance of artifacts in Holocaust education. “In the four or so decades since the International Study of Organized Persecution of Children began working with child survivors of the Holocaust, it became clear to researchers that children’s memories and thoughts are more profound and enduring than otherwise thought. Many of them had objects...like a doll or a book, that tied them to their past and prevented their memories from fading completely,” she said.
Fogelman added, “Today, educators have come to understand that children remember facts better when those facts are tied to images. Introducing artifacts into the classroom when talking about the Holocaust puts that overwhelming event into a personal perspective, to leave indelible impressions on the students, making it real. Showing children a dress that a little girl wore, a suitcase that a family carried with them when they were deported, a spoon used for eating in the concentration camp, makes the unimaginable thinkable, and shows how people coped in extreme situations.”
Dr. Paul Winkler, Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, praised the importance of the upcoming workshop. “A workshop utilizing artifacts is very valuable in that students can relate to the objects. We congratulate and thank the organizers for providing this quality seminar,” he noted.
Fogelman also noted the importance Holocaust education has on students “In social studies, literature, history, when educators teach Holocaust basics to middle school and high-school students the artifacts will pique their interests and inspire them, in many cases, to study this historical period more seriously as adults.” She added, “For children, learning about everyday life in the ghettos or the camps is more important than memorizing dates and battles.”
The workshop is open to teachers of social studies, history, Jewish history, English, humanities and language arts, librarians, media specialists, and administrators. The event will take place from 9:15am-12pm. Continuing Education Units will be granted to attendees. A strictly kosher breakfast will be served. To RSVP please e-mail [email protected] ISOPC/CDR information can be found at www.holocaustchildren.org.
By Rivka Hia