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Holocaust Teacher Workshop Returns To Campus in August

Published: June 30, 2011

The Teacher Workshop on the Holocaust returns to the Karl Anatol Center on campus Aug. 8-12 for its second visit with the goal of training local school teachers in ways to teach the about the Nazi genocide.

“This workshop will bring high school teachers on campus for curriculum development workshops that will enable them to teach students about the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way,” explained History’s Jeffrey Blutinger, the inaugural Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair for Jewish Studies and a member of the university since 2004.

“Holocaust education is a state standard usually taught at the 10th and 11th grades. Part of the instruction comes in history and part in language arts. But those who instruct the Holocaust may not have taken a class in the subject. Their knowledge may be limited to whatever movies they’ve seen or whatever world history textbook they read at university. What we are doing is providing them information about the subject including a general overview accompanied by binder material prepared by the Anti-Defamation League titled ‘Echoes and Reflections.’ We are currently raising endowment funds that will make the workshops a permanent fixture on campus.”

Participating teachers receive a $100 stipend to pay for food and parking and may receive up to two units of service credit.

The Jewish Studies program was approached in 2009 by Holocaust survivor Gerda Seifer and her husband, Harold, with the seed gift that created the teacher workshop, Blutinger explained.

“There’s nothing like it available in Southern California,” he said. “It was a chance to fill a major need. I thought it was a terrific idea. It gives Jewish Studies at CSULB a chance to increase our visibility and help us to make a name for ourselves in Los Angeles and Orange counties.”

The workshop will begin with a CSULB faculty-led review of the genocide and an introduction to the program’s theme, “Art and the Holocaust.” The inaugural workshop’s 2010 theme was “Children and the Holocaust.”

“This year, the topic will be explored in two perspectives,” said Blutinger. “We will examine art as perpetrator of the Holocaust and art as resistance. We will study the theory of art and propaganda within a totalitarian system. We will look at film as a tool in the killing process and the creation of Nazi films that advocated genocide. Then we will switch gears to look at art created by victims as a way of resisting Nazis.” The workshop will include a visit to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

On the final day, workshop participants will examine issues of memory and artistic representation through the classic illustrated texts “Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” and “Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began” by Art Spiegelman. “We wanted to give participants something they would actually use in teaching,” Blutinger said.

Jewish Studies tracks its workshop success through teacher feedback. “We ask participants during and at the conclusion of the conference for their response as well as contacting the first-year participants,” he recalled. “Teachers spoke of how helpful the course was in their instruction and how it enabled them to assist colleagues. It was very heartening to hear how well they responded.”

Carolyn Frost of the Brethren Christian Junior/Senior High School explained that the workshop gave her more of a global view of Holocaust issues and cleared up misconceptions.

Holocaust Workshop Returns To Campus in August
Felix Nussbaum, Self-Portrait With Jewish Identity Card (1943, in hiding)

“It also helped me to become more aware of opportunities available to me as a citizen and as a teacher to keep me more current on what is happening to create awareness of preventing further hatred and intolerance in the world. My presentation of Elie Wiesel’s book in my curriculum was really enriched by the seminar topics. I also appreciated the viewpoint of the children and how they viewed the horrific events they experienced,” she said.

John Trovato of Torrance High School shared the material he received with his school’s history department. “I have engaged the students in discussions on the definition of the Holocaust and what is genocide,” he said. “The conference has made me aware of how important it is to discuss the Holocaust and genocide in the world to students who are really so far removed from realities of history and their impact.”

Blutinger feels the workshop fits into the mission of Jewish Studies at CSULB by moving the program more and more into the field of teacher preparation and education.

“This workshop works well with one of CSULB’s core missions – to prepare teachers,” he said. “Another program that begins this summer reflects CSULB’s recent selection as a participating campus by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in their Belfer First Step Program. Campus representatives will visit Washington D.C. this summer to participate in the program and we hope to bring workshops here to campus in the fall to work with teachers in helping them to teach the Holocaust. The way for Jewish Studies to distinguish itself from other Southern California programs is to specialize in a particular area. The area that works best for this campus is teacher training.”

Blutinger feels the workshop has the opportunity to put CSULB on the map by bridging this campus and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“It has already done so in that we were able to use last year’s workshop as a means to getting this campus designated a first-step campus with the museum,” he said. “I think this partnership benefits both institutions. It is a way for CSULB to expand Holocaust education and awareness. I think that’s a good first step.”

–Richard Manly