Holocaust Education Important Part of Federationís Work

A Message from Andy Lipkin, Federation Executive Vice-President

Holocaust education is a critical part of what the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation does. With reports like these, it’s easy to see why:

  • A 2018 national study of Holocaust knowledge and awareness in the United States showed that 11 percent of U.S. adults and 22 percent of millennials haven’t heard or are not sure if they have heard of the Holocaust, and, while approximately six million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust, nearly one-third of all Americans (31 percent) and over four-in-ten Millennials (41 percent) believe that two million Jews or less were killed during the Holocaust.
  • A recent CNN poll in Europe revealed that about a third of the 7,000 European respondents across seven countries knew "just a little or nothing at all" about the Holocaust. In France, nearly 20 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 said they had never heard of the Holocaust.
  • At the same time, anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise. The FBI reported a 37 percent spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes in 2017 compared to the previous year - the third year in a row that such attacks have increased.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Federation preserves the memory of the Holocaust each year through community programs and educational activities. These efforts are increasingly important.

There are a few programs coming up I want to be sure you know about.

Our Yom Hashoah events will happen in May. This year’s local theme is “Do Not Stand Silent: Remembering Kristallnacht,” in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the events, and as a reminder of the moral imperative to always speak out and take action against injustice and atrocities.

The 26th Annual Community Holocaust Commemoration event is set for Thursday, May 2 at noon in the rotunda of the Mahoning County Courthouse in Youngstown. The annual Shoah Memorial Ceremony will be held Sunday, May 5 at 4 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center.

Michelle Best, an Austintown Middle School teacher, will speak at the May 2 event about the importance of introducing Holocaust-based themes and lessons in the classroom. Michelle is one of the teachers involved with the International Shared Reading Project. The Youngstown Area Jewish Federation partners with the Holocaust and Humanity Center in Cincinnati for this program that pairs schools in Ohio with schools in Israel. They read and discuss a work of literature related to the Holocaust via online discussion forums.

Also at the May 2 event, the winners of the JCRC’s annual student Holocaust writing and multimedia contest will be announced. There will also be the presentation of a proclamation by Youngstown Mayor Jamaal Tito Brown, as well as a memorial candle lighting ceremony to honor the six million who perished in the Holocaust.

The annual memorial ceremony on May 5 will feature Dr. Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. A McKeesport, Pa. native, Bairnsfather’s career includes work at the photo archives office of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Spertus Museum in Chicago, and the Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation in Dallas.

In addition, the program will include a presentation by Dr, Jacob Labendz, the Youngstown State University Clayman Assistant Professor of Judaic and Holocaust Studies. He will discuss an upcoming Slovak Holocaust exhibition sponsored by the YSU Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies. There will also be special musical presentations, a candle lighting ceremony, and participation by children and grandchildren of Survivors.

Also in May will be a presentation of “Club Gelbe Stern.” This musical, featuring Alexis Fishman, tells the story of Erika Stern, a fictional Jewish chanteuse living and performing in Berlin as the Nazis rise to power. “Club Gelbe Stern” is a cabaret within a one-act play, offering audiences a glimpse into what it may have been like for Jewish performers in the final days of the Weimar Republic.

These events are part of the Federation’s broader Holocaust education imperative. We have a Holocaust educational specialist on staff: Jesse McClain. He oversees the Schwartz Judaic and Holocaust Resource Center that houses the Federation’s extensive Holocaust educational resources. The Dr. Saul Friedman Research Collection, 500 plus Holocaust related texts, more than 100 videos, and various original documents and artifacts from the time period of the Holocaust are available to view or borrow. The Center also houses the Bill Vegh and Henry Kinast traveling exhibitions that are available, at no cost, to schools, religious institutions and civic associations. 

Please be sure to attend the upcoming Holocaust-related programs. For more information, please contact Bonnie Deutsch Burdman at 330.746.3250 ext. 183.

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