As a middle school teacher I was often asked why I was giving up a week of my summer to attend the Facing History and Ourselves’ Holocaust and Human Behaviour seminar. “You don’t teach that time period,” being the most frequent comment. They were right. But there was something about Facing History and how they approached teaching that piqued my interest and so I went.
This summer, Jack Lipinsky, along with 10 other Facing History and Ourselves teachers from Jewish day schools around North America, participated in a week-long study trip to central Poland. The trip was led by Facing History’s Director of Jewish Education Jan Darsa. It was sponsored by Polish non-profit The Forum for Dialogue Among Nations. His experiences, in particular his visit to the town of Pińczów, impacted him greatly.
I don't know much about the history of my dad’s family. I used to think that this was because there was not much known. I'm beginning to think differently. What I know about my dad’s side of the family is that my Zaida (grandpa) came in 1920 from what was then Ukraine (now Belarus) as a refugee via a camp in Romania. My Baba (grandma) came in 1914 as an immigrant with her aunt’s family from Ukraine, near Kiev. The legend of the family is that they were on the last boat before World War 1 broke out. My Zaida was a refugee from the same war that my Baba narrowly avoided. I know that after marrying, my Zaida served in World War II before starting a family. He had three children; two daughters and my father. There weren’t too many other details that I knew, especially about the family pre-World War II.
As you may have read in other blogs, the “Stand Up, Speak Out” event was an incredible evening of sharing and community. For me it served to exemplify, and personify, the Scope and Sequence of Facing History and Ourselves. On that evening, half a dozen of my students took the stage along with students from three other southern Ontario schools to perform their spoken word pieces. The performances were broken down into the five steps of the Facing History Scope and Sequence:
Topics: Choosing to Participate, Facing History Resources, Identity, History, Urban Education, project, We and They, Strategies, Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy, genocide, legacy, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanities Course, Holocaust and Human Behaviour, CHG, reflection
Graphic imagery is used in this lesson. Please read the full post before teaching this.
I start by displaying the famous photo called "The Last Jew in Vinnitsa."
I say, "This was the title given by the Einsatzgrup soldier in whose pocket it was found, scribbled on the back. Vinnitsa is a small town in the Ukraine whose entire Jewish population was wiped out by the Einsatzgruppen mass killing methods in 1941."
This is all I tell my students when displaying this picture. They have already learned about the Einsatzgruppen and read the selection on "Battalion 101" in Holocaust and Human Behaviour Chapter 7 Reading 3 . They have also been taught that there are three groups involved in genocide: perpetrators, bystanders, and victims.
I am often asked why I would want to teach about genocide. What would possess me to spend so much time reading, talking, and thinking about some of the worst events in human history? My answer to this question has always been inspired by Wangari Maathai’s Story of the Hummingbird. Like many good stories, the way it is told varies. My delivery tends to be the following: