The Educators' Seminar at the International School for
Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
Fourteen Canadian educators took part in Yad Vashem Jerusalem’s three-week Summer International Educators' Seminar at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies in July. The unique seminar was developed by Yad Vashem’s scholars to impart the latest in Holocaust-related curricular resources and pedagogical tools to Canadian educators who teach in the public school system, many of them in Israel for the first time.
The Holocaust is an event that fundamentally challenges the foundations upon which human civilization rests. It calls into question basic assumptions of human behaviour, urges mankind to consider the tenuous links that hold civil society together and to actively work to thwart it from collapse.
Tragically, society must still learn the lessons of the Holocaust, as racism, bigotry and intolerance are still living realities. Yad Vashem, as the preeminent leader in the field of Holocaust studies, has met the call of these challenging times. A unique series of seminars was developed expressly for educators from around the globe. These are the Summer International Educators’ Seminar and the Winter Educators’ Seminar at Yad Vashem Jerusalem.
Since the inception of the educational seminars in 1995, approximately 3,000 teachers from all over the world, including Canada, have participated. Educators from public and private Jewish educational frameworks come to Yad Vashem from North America, Australia, South America, and Eastern Europe. The international flavor of the Seminars allows the educators to experience the diverse understanding and pedagogical imperatives of their colleagues. This imbues the Seminars with an international perspective on Holocaust education that could not be achieved in a seminar open only to one specific geographical group.
The Summer International and the Winter Educators’ Seminars provide educators with the facts of the Shoah and the pedagogical tools to teach this sensitive topic. Given by top experts in the field of Holocaust scholarship, research, and education, the seminars offer participants with a unique opportunity to obtain an unparalleled academic and pedagogical experience in Holocaust education.
The seminars are built upon three major pillars; academic, pedagogical, and experiential, reflective of the educational philosophy of the school. The academic component takes educators through the history and culture of the Jewish people in the interwar period, a people with diverse interests and roots – not a people born as victims. The pedagogical component provides participants with the tools to translate this academic content into suitable pedagogical materials that are age appropriate and multi-disciplinary. The experiential component includes meeting with survivors, whose testimonies document and personalize this tragic historical event, providing the Holocaust with a human face and heart. Lastly, field trips across Israel connect educators not only with the recent history of the Jewish people but also with its ancient roots in the Land of Israel, providing a context for the Holocaust and its aftermath.
Most importantly, the seminars address the recent upsurge in antisemitism and Holocaust denial throughout the world today, including strategies for combatting these phenomena and promoting the universal lessons that can be drawn and disseminated.
The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem strongly believes in education as the number one instrument to creating a more tolerant society and compassionate community. Thus, we are proud to have made recruiting and sending Canadian educators to the Summer and Winter Educators’ Seminars at the International School for Holocaust Studies in Jerusalem one of our top educational initiatives.
In that regard, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem recruits and sends annually, with full scholarships, between 20–25 Canadian educators from public and private Jewish educational frameworks to participate in these unique training seminars; in the last 10 years, more than 180 educators from across Canada attended the Educators' Seminar.