Yad Vashem invites Florida school district to learn about Holocaust

Invitation comes after former principal remains neutral on whether Holocaust happened .

July 10, 2019 22:39
2 minute read.
US Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen listen to a guide with the Netanyahus at Yad Vashem

US Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen listen to a guide with the Netanyahus as they visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. (photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)

Yad Vashem’s Echoes and Reflections program has invited principals and teachers from School District 5 of Palm Beach County, Florida, to participate in a Holocaust education seminar.

This comes after the principal of Spanish River Community High School, a school in this district, told a parent, who had inquired about Holocaust education at the school last year, that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” and that he’s unable to say if “the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.” The remarks were publicized on Friday by The Palm Beach Post and the principal, William Latson, has since been removed from his position.

In a letter to the school district’s board chairman, Frank A. Barbieri Jr., Echoes and Reflections program director Sheryl Ochayon invited the teachers and principals to take part in a “professional development program about the Holocaust.”

She said that “In light of the recent incident in the Spanish River Community High School... we are sure that an Echoes and Reflections PD program will give your valued teachers a better understanding, not just about the Holocaust as a landmark event in world history, but also about the importance of teaching it in US public schools and in your school district of Palm Beach County.”

Ochayon explained in the letter that the teachers’ knowledge about Holocaust history and its human story will be enriched by the program.

“We believe that in teaching about the Holocaust, we are also teaching about racism, prejudice and antisemitism, which continue to plague American society,” she continued. “Teaching about the Holocaust teaches students to examine their words, actions and choices so that they can end these hatreds.

“Teachers are critically important in this mission,” she added.

According to Ochayon, Holocaust education “teaches critical thinking and understanding of others from different backgrounds.”

“After learning about the Holocaust,” she explained, “students are significantly more likely to recognize that one person can make a difference against stereotyping and bias.”

Ochayon invited them to programs being held in both Florida and Jerusalem.

The program has already reached more than 60,000 educators in all fifty US states.

According to the international Holocaust Memorial Center, Echoes and Reflections was founded in 2005 by Yad Vashem, the USC Shoah Foundation and ADL, “as the premier resource for Holocaust educational materials and dynamic content in North America.”

The program is dedicated “to reshaping the way that teachers and students understand, process and navigate the world through the events of the Holocaust.”

In 1994, the Florida legislature passed a law requiring “all school districts to incorporate lessons on the Holocaust as part of public school instruction,” the Florida Holocaust Mandate states.

“Ultimately, the establishment of Holocaust studies in Florida schools is expected to play a significant role in the development of tolerant attitudes; cooperative and collaborative behaviors; informed, involved and compassionate citizens; and other skills encouraging civility,” the mandate reads.

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