Two Holocaust Museums Rethink Their Missions

At a time when there are increasingly fewer Holocaust survivors and witnesses, the last year has seen a surge in anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and bigotry (such as White Nationalismon the rise. Of even greater concern, these forms of bias and hate are moving from the fringes to the mainstream. The Washington Post recently called on Congress to take action. These worrisome trends have had at least two Holocaust museums re-examine how they present their collections. The first involves a young girl, a name world famous but a history often misunderstood. The second commemorates the ghetto uprising in Korczak’s home of Warsaw.

 

The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Although attendance at this Amsterdam landmark has increased sharply over the past seven years, the curators have noticed that many of the younger and foreign visitors have a limited knowledge of the Holocaust and Anne Frank. The challenge, according to and article in the New York Times, is how to make this history relevant to today without trivializing it. The museum has expanded both its exhibition space in an building adjoining the old house and its educational outreach efforts, especially to enable these audiences to experience the what happened in the house. The museum also has traveling exhibitions, such as the new “Let Me Be Myself.” Anne Frank has long been a metaphor for hope and the belief in the inherent goodness of people even in the worst of circumstances.

Anne Frank Card Stamps with Korczak

 

Lohamei Hagetaot – Ghetto Fighters House Museum, Israel

In another recent New York Times article, the Ghetto Fighters House Museum, which commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and honors notable people of the city during the Holocaust, including Janusz Korczak. Yad Layeled commemorates the children. According to the article, “…instead of dealing with the Holocaust as a static historical event, and only a Jewish tragedy, the museum is advocating a more dynamic approach with a focus on the moral lessons for all of humanity.”

Ghetto Fighters House 50

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Another Look at “The Day After” and “The Trump Effect”on Our School Children

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Font cover of new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Since wondering “What do we tell the children?” in the aftermath of the 2016 election, much has been written about the sharp increase in bias incidents.  In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 hate incidents in just the first ten days after the 2016 election, of which 183 took place in schools.  Earlier this year, this civil rights organization published a report on the deleterious effect of the open bias and bigotry that characterized much of the campaign; the results of which have been summarized in this space.

Some 10,000 people submitted more than 25,000 comments in this follow-up survey. Most shocking is that many teachers and other educational professionals who participated in the November 14 survey expressed the observation “The ugliness is new,” noting that they have not heard these statements of bigotry earlier in their careers.  Hateful and hurtful words have accompanied Nazi salutes and swastikas, and Confederate flags, also reported in Education Week and the Huffington Post.  (Colleges are also seeing an uptick in bias incidents, raising concern, especially among Jewish students.)  The climate of fear has been affecting teachers and students alike.

Recommendations, with links, are given at the end of the report; they include the following:

  • Administrators should communicate their school’s commitment to acceptance, inclusion, and safety.
  • Ensure students undergoing trauma (eight in ten students from marginalized groups) have the support they need.
  • Enforce anti-bullying strategies.
  • “Encourage courage,” urging all members of the school community to speak up and speak out against hate.  In other words,  “Neutrality won’t work.”
  • Prepare and know how to respond to a crisis.

A photo at the end shows a child holding a hand-written sign reading, “Dear Donald Trump, Please let Mexicans stay here because they may be our parents.”

 

Also noteworthy:

“We Need to Talk” – Post-election support and resources for educators and parents.

Actor and writer George Takei pleaded, “They interned my family.  Please don’t let them do it to Muslims.”

Is this your America, asks a Washington Post reporter.  “If you have never faced discrimination, you don’t get my fear of Trump.”

Schools across the US report an increase in post-election bias.

Comedian Sarah Silverman tells why learning to empathize is critical to our future.

Students and teachers wear safety pins in face of harassment: You are safe with me.

Jonathan Kozol speaks out: “I fight back.”

The City of San Francisco passed a resolution to stand up for all citizens and resist any Trump Administration threats.

A recent NPR piece reports on the problems and challenges of media literacy of students.

“America is worth it, our children are worth it, believe in our country, fight for our values, and never ever give up.”
– Hillary Clinton

 

 

The Election: Children Now… and Beyond 2016

Day after day, day and night, pundits (some of the actually in the know) emit a steady stream of commentary, analysis, and a heaping dose of allegations and insinuations, one candidate in particular garnering disproportionate attention.  With all we have seen and heard about the 2016 election, has anyone asked how this very unfunny circus show is affecting children?  Well, at least one group has, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which recently released a survey, The Trump Effect: The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation’s schools, also available online.

SPLC Trump Effect

The report is the result of a week-long survey, in which nearly 2,000 people submitted more than 5,000 comments.  SPLC admits that, with its non-random sample, the survey cannot be entirely scientific; the responders all have signed up to receive newsletters and e-mail updates.

Though students have been “…increasingly political (which is good), …the extreme rhetoric being modeled is not helping their ability to utilize reason and evidence, rather than replying in kind.”  Furthermore, many students “…see the candidates as jokes and are offended and dismayed for the future.”   Even more disturbing are the deeper and long-term consequence, namely that more than two-thirds of teachers reported that many of their Muslim and immigrant students have expressed stark fear about what will happen to them and their families.  Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the schools of more than one-third the respondents, in many cases involving students being at the receiving end of bullying, with all that involves, from crying in class to sleepless nights to sharp declines in feelings of self-worth and even suicidal thoughts.

There is no doubt that the current toxic political environment is having a deleterious effect on our children.  Somehow, beyond this valuable report, this topic has not made headlines, somehow deemed less of concern, less worthy than juvenile comments about genitalia, which are anything but child’s play.