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Teachers’ Appreciation

In the past ten years thirty one educators took part in the Yad Vashem Seminars for Educators from Abroad, International School for Holocaust Studies.
Please see below some of their comments and remarks that touched us all profoundly.

2017-Anne-Marie-Jacob

First of all, I want to thank you once again for the opportunity you gave me last week. I met with incredible teachers from all over USA, I received wonderful advices from Museum Teacher Fellow Facilitators who organized discussions and activities in the classroom, for us teachers to better use Holocaust testimonies in class with our own students.

I had the chance of listening to very moving testimonies. I appreciated the time I had to think about how I will study the important subject of Holocaust and duty of remembrance with my 11th grade students next year.

I feel my words cannot well say how much I am grateful for that. Thank you for your generosity!

2017-Lev-Berner

I have returned from Belfer 2017, and while my immune system will need a bit of time to recover, my brain is full active and raring to go!

A very different approach from Yad Vashem, we started by learning the USHMM’s 10 guidelines for teaching Holocaust education. . Over my three days, and with the many resources I was given, I now have the confidence I need to break away from the powerpoint that I had been using, which was something I received at Yad Vashem, and create my own.  I cannot wait to get it started and to use the various activities I learned at Belfer to improve the quality of my teaching.  I also plan on focusing on the dichotomy between the very worst of the Holocaust and perhaps the very best of intentions as I plan to focus on the Babi Yar Massacre and the Sobibor uprising.

Between conversing with colleagues and new friends, and meeting some more survivors with amazing stories, and receiving a TON of books, dvd’s and posters, this conference has brought me to a place with comfort of my subject that I did not have before.

So again, I thank you for your immense generosity and for putting me in the position to gain this knowledge and be able to improve the quality of Holocaust education I can bestow on my students.  I won’t let you down!

2016-Rami-Khodaie

At Marymount, Mr. Khodaie’s position requires that he implement the philosophies of the International Baccalaureate and to help both students and teachers. He is also responsible for the registration of international students arriving at Marymount Academy.

“From the very first day at classes, I was fascinated and pulled in with the topic,” said Mr. Khodaie. “From the initial discussion to ease people into the topic and the ‘Easy in and easy out’ method of teaching to the more hard and difficult facts, the lectures and lecturers were great. The fabulous tours, not to be missed, were just the icing on the cake. The Holocaust Museum and Ghetto Fighters House were unbelievable and very difficult to walk through.

“The tours with Ephraim Kaye and Amir Golani were amazing; I just wish we had more time to spend at the Israel Museum. The historical Masada is probably one the most amazing forts I have seen in my life. If I want to list all the things that we did I will have to go back and mention each and every place we visited. For me the visit was very emotional, even now reliving moments of the trip brings back tears to my eyes. I was so fascinated and excited to meet survivors. It was an honour and a pleasure to be in presence of people who have lived part of modern history. I have learnt to be able to approach the Holocaust with better vision, talk about difficult topics with age appropriate materials and deal with deniers in a better way.”

2016-Suzanne-Ujvari

“The Yad Vashem intensive training in Holocaust Studies for Educators allowed me to better comprehend a human tragedy of the greatest magnitude that befell the Jewish people,” she said.

“Through this experience, I was able to demystify the unspeakable, the unthinkable event of the Holocaust, a marker of pure evil in the history of the twentieth century.  A cool, calculated and highly educated leadership of the Nazi regime implemented a racist ideology in view of the radical extermination of Jews from all territories under its control.”

Ms. Ujvari says that the Hecht fellowship gave her the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Israel. “I am in turn committed to educate and inform my students,” she said. “I plan to implement Holocaust Education in my class by carefully guiding my pupils into this dark period of history through children’s literature resulting from child survivors’ experiences that provide an age appropriate framework to understand the profound implications of racism, stereotyping and discrimination. Holocaust education is a master template that illustrates human rights abuses in action within a highly evolved state. Through analysis and reflection, learners have the opportunity to become informed and educated to decode, recognize and swiftly take a stance to denounce social injustices, thus paving the way for future active citizenship.”

2013-Vincent-Gagnon

I am sure you heard the good news from Gina already, but I also wanted to drop few lines to let you know about my progress since my return to Israël. I have been co-presenting with Gina twice already and the audience fascinated with our experience to Israël. I am very happy to have teamed up with Gina, she is a great speaker and compelling story teller. We have more presentation on our agenda.

In my school I am collaborating with Julie Etheridge (a good colleague and former participant) on a new project entitled “Generation Exchange”. Students will go the Vista  Residence to meet with senior and chat about with memories of being a teenager and to see how things have changed or remained the same. The inspiration comes from the idea of testimonies and the importance of oral history. Afterwards, student will organize a video animation of the stories that the seniors told.

I am very grateful for the opportunity given by you and Mr. Hecht to participate at the Yad Vashem program. I am taking graduate level course at the Army Staff College – Royal Military College. As we say in the army: “duty calls”.

Best regards, Vincent Gagnon

2013-Gina-Lavine

Dear Riva and Tom,

I am not sure how I can express my gratitude for the unbelievable experience I had in Israel due to your kindness in offering me a scholarship for the International Seminar at Yad Vashem. I have been on Canadian soil for just over a week and I find it really difficult to put into words what I would like to say about this incredible experience. This program far exceeded my expectations!

I applied for this program because I was on a mission. I wanted to increase my knowledge about the Holocaust and issues concerning Israel in order to continue fighting against anti-Semitism. However, I gained far more than an education at Yad Vashem. This was a life changing experience. The Yad Vashem Seminar allowed me to grow emotionally, spiritually and professionally. I have a renewed vigour and passion to continue my mission.

I went into this program not knowing what to expect, ready to be invested in whatever was offered to me and to learn as much as possible. I did all that and much more. The program was not an easy one; it was challenging both physically and emotionally as we spent many hours in and out of the classroom discussing very sensitive issues; and it was well worth it!

There were so many special moments, however going to Schindler’s grave with a couple from Shindler’s list was a very emotional moment for me and I will always keep this memory alive. I was able to talk with both the husband and the wife and it left me with hope for the future.

I feel that I am a better person because of this experience and I believe I will also be a better educator. The program was both inspiring and enriching. After participating in over 25 lectures, 9 pedagogical lessons, several meetings with survivors, and trips (which all added to my development as an educator) I am ready to continue with enthusiasm the mission I set out for myself.

The high caliber of lecturers and professors certainly allowed me to learn many things and I left this program with a continued desire to learn more. The cross curricular approach was enriching and modeled very effective lesson plans which can be adapted to all levels, including courses at college level. I feel lucky to have had access to the many authentic materials as references. Yad Vashem is a gold mine for educators of the Holocaust.

I was also impressed with the many wonderful diverse people that became my best friends for the three weeks at Yad Vashem. The interfaith community was appreciated as we developed a sense of camaraderie that will last a lifetime. Our group has continued to communicate through a Facebook site we created while studying at Yad Vashem and I feel deeply connected to a cause through this virtual world. We will continue sharing ideas and exchanging on a regular basis to fight for a common cause: Teaching about the Holocaust and enlightening others on the need for a Jewish state: Israel.

I must also mention that the entire staff at Yad Vashem helped to make this experience an enjoyable one. Stephanie, Ephraim,( our admirable teachers and caregivers) their intern: Nathalie, Dorit (department coordinator) and everyone that I came in contact with made me feel well taken care of.

I especially enjoyed meeting the author of Rethinking the Holocaust (Professor Yehuda Bauer) and I will be sending you a picture that was taken right after we (L aurence, Vincent, Georgia, and myself) had our books signed.

I feel that I am at the beginning of something greater to come. I am committed to my mission through teaching about the Holocaust, creating and developing interesting class lessons and making visits to schools in my area where I can offer a new perspective about Israel.

As you are already aware, I have committed to offering a conference about the Holocaust and Israel to the Business Woman’s Association in Trois-Rivières and I had very good local press coverage on this experience. As a result many other offers are coming through. Today I accepted a request to do a conference for the Tourism program at my college. And several other teachers have asked to meet with me in order to work together on my mission. My next step is to contact other high schools in the region and offer in-class workshops. I will also be making a donation to The Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship Program, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators.

Riva and Tom, I will forever be in gratitude for this life changing experience. I have a deepened sense of what life is all about. We need to celebrate life and to make sure that this message continues for generations to come.

Thank you, Gina Lavine

2012-Steven-Santella

Hello Riva,

I truly had an experience of a lifetime in Israel this summer. It was so much more than I could have ever imagined. The courses were very well organized and so informative and interesting (as I’m sure you are aware). The tours and visits to the many different parts of the country were extraordinary. Some of the most memorable for me were the trips to Masada and the Dead Sea and our visit to the kibbutz.

This year, I am planning different activities with my students. I spoke about my trip to all the students and seeing as the majority of them are Jewish, I could tell they were excited to know I experienced their, culture, religion and country for myself. I feel better prepared to teach them this year then any other before. I have planned trips to the Holocaust Museum, we will be starting the novel “Hana’s suitcase” soon and will have a holocaust survivor in to speak to the students in grade 6.

I have attached some photos of my experience. Once again, thank you for such an amazing experience, that I will never forget.

Yours truly,
Steve Santella 

2012-Julie-Etheridge-

Hello Mrs. Heft,

As you said to us in May, it would be a life changing experience and it was. Michael Cohen had asked me to write a summary of my trip for the EMSB. It recently appeared on the EMSB website. I do not know if there parts of it that would be useful for the website. I have attached a group picture that was taken at the Crusaders Castle.

Concerning my classroom, I am presently working with my Sec 3 classes on creating a video/animation for the Raoul Wallenberg contest. The students looked at art made from children and from survivors of the Holocaust as a starting point. I believe the students are most taken by the Testimonies found in the Echoes Education kit provided by Yad Vashem. For my Sec 1 class, the students will be looking again at the artworks and creating their own paintings focusing on the Jewish community of Montreal. Faith Ringhold will be the artist for inspiration as I hope to display it in the form of a quilt.

As a staff, we are hoping to have a large scale art exhibition in the gym focusing on Social Justice in May. I am hoping to partner with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to work with my students. And then the exhibition will be used as a teaching tool for the rest of the school.

I will keep you posted on the progress and send images of the student’s work when possible.

Sincerely, Julie

2012-Carin-Schwartz

Hi Riva,

It has now been a couple of months since we returned and I still think about my experience and Israel every day. I have begun to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my Secondary Five English class. I am currently teaching the novel “Slaughterhouse Five” and although it is not about the Holocaust, it deals with a main character severely affected by the Second World War. I have discussed the trip on several occasions with all my students and as the year progresses I will be doing a Holocaust unit with each of my English classes. I also gave a presentation to the entire faculty at my school. They were, to say the least- overwhelmed and deeply touched. I have been invited to John Rennie High School to speak to several classes who have just begun studying “Night” and “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl”. Finally, I am in contact with the QPAT to give a lecture at the annual teachers convention. 

Even with all this… I wish I had more time and more people to share the experience with. I just feel as if the seminar gave me so much, and I want as many people to hear about it as possible. 

Let me know if there is anything else you’d like me to send you. I do, by the way, have a couple of hundred beautiful photos, which I will gladly share with you if you’d like to see them. I also have a gift for you from Steve and I, which I will give to you next time we meet. 

Thanks again, Carin

2011-Stacey-Blumer

“I am well prepared to enter the classroom and educate my students regarding life in Europe before, during and following the Shoah. Using Echoes and Reflections, I hope my students can learn to treat others with dignity and respect in an effort to combat prejudice and discrimination in our society today.”

“The trips around Israel to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Dead Sea, Masada, Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, the visit to Oskar Schindler’s grave as well as monasteries and many churches and synagogues provided a unique opportunity to experience, appreciate and learn about the history, beauty and uniqueness of Israel firsthand.

For me, the human faces of survivor testimony impacted me the most as they were willing to relive that terrible time in their lives because it is only through education that we have hope for a better tomorrow and to never repeat the terrible events of history.”

“One of my favorite lecturers was Musicologist Tamar Machado. She gave an interesting account about how one of the Sonderkommando’s was trying to use music to relay the message about what was going on inside the gas chambers. The Sonderkommando would sing outside a window details of what he was seeing inside. It was a moving experience, and one that I will share with my students this coming school year. My intention this year for my students is geared for my upper level, cycle 3 students. They will be learning songs of the Holocaust and singing them, both in class, and in public performance (TBA). We will also be having in-class learning on what went on inside the camps and ghettos with a focus on the musicians themselves, who they were, what their backgrounds were, who they played for, what obstacles they were faced with day in and day out and what role they played in “the resistance” against the Nazi Regime. We will focus on the music that was played, and how it was used to send out messages from the victims of the Shoah themselves. We will ask questions such as, how did the music of the Holocaust survive? What inspired these people to compose music while living under such brutality? We will have open dialogue, and discussion in order to try to grapple some of the questions and difficulties raised with this most sensitive topic and how all of these great “musicians” weren’t just “musicians”. They were people… And how they were all led down the road to the inevitable final solution. I have the contact information for Ms. Machado, and I hope to keep in touch with her as an important resource for my work with my students this coming year. “

2009-Keren-Cohen

“I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be a learner, immersed in the culture, religion, and topics we were learning about.? It was at a learning level I had never experienced.? The professors were so knowledgeable and the organizers so thoughtful and well meaning.? My peers were also a wealth of knowledge from which I am still learning and with whom I am still sharing.”

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2009-Sabrina-Jafralie

“I want to thank you and your sponsorship again for my awe-inspiring trip to Israel and the opportunity to visit and study at Yad Vashem.? This scholarship award further assisted with me with my responsibility to prevent such human tragedy from repeating.? I hope to be able to contributre significanat material to the already vast Holocaust education curriculm? This year I am creating a reflective museum with my grade 10.”

2009-Kirsten-Nielsen

“This trip forced me to question what it means to be human, to take another look at history and spirituality, and frankly to be a better person. How this will translate into the classroom, I?m not sure yet. I am sure that it has made me a gentler high school teacher, which after my first five years was something that was wearing away. How will I teach about the Shoah, I?m not sure, I just know I must. I want you to know that the fact that you both picked me and paid for my scholarship is something that I thought of each day of my trip. It made me grateful, but also puts a sense of responsibility on me to also give back.? I want you to know that I am profoundly changed because of my experience and that I thank you both from the bottom of my heart. Forever grateful,”

2008-Linda-Shetzer

Dear Riva and Thomas,

I would like to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to study with such eminent scholars in Israel. The staff at Yad Vashem was so knowledgeable, as were all of the visiting professors. Having to listen, take notes and try to understand all that was being said was a new experience for me, as I have not been in school for so many years. On a professional level, it was with great interest that I listened to a tour of the Yad Vashem website that explained how I could use it when I got home. We were shown pedagogical units that we could buy and then use in our classrooms. It was so interesting to meet with other educators from Canada and the United States. we plan to mentor each other in the coming months.

The trips that we took showed us so much of the country. Our guide, Amir, was an expert in archeology and the history of the region, and always showed us both sides of the Arab/Israeli conflicts. The highlights of these trips for me were Masada, with its tragic but inspiring story, and the tour of the Kotel Tunnels.

The three weeks went by so quickly, as we were busy every second of each day.

We were taught about the lives of the Jews in Germany and Poland between the First and Second World Wars. We were told about the economic conditions in Germany after the First World Wars that lead to the rise of Hitler. Then we got into the subject of the anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the reasons and ideology of Hitler’s Final Solution. These were topics about which I knew little details, so these lectures taught me a lot.

This experience has made me grow as a woman, as a teacher, and as a Jew.