'Holocaust education important to Israeli educators, pupils'

Survey findings show Shoah is a common denominator amongst students of diverse backgrounds.

January 27, 2010 05:12
2 minute read.
holocaust survivor 298.88

holocaust survivor 298.8. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The Holocaust is one of the most meaningful and unifying areas of study within the Israeli school system, according to a survey released Tuesday by Dr. Erik Cohen of Bar-Ilan University's School of Education, a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The survey, which was the first of its kind, included the responses of 307 principals, 519 junior high and high school teachers and 2,540 ninth and twelfth grade pupils from both religious and non-religious schools across the country.

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The findings showed that the Holocaust is a common denominator amongst students of diverse backgrounds, and that no major differences exist between students from different demographic groups in terms of their perceptions of the Holocaust.

Additionally, the survey's findings showed that the Holocaust affects the vast majority, or 77 percent, of students' worldview, that they are committed to preserving its memory (94%), and that they are interested in learning more about the Holocaust (83%).

"The research documented a cross-analysis of three points of view - principals, teachers and students - from the various streams in the Jewish sector and various regions throughout the country," Dr. Cohen told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "And for the first time, it's provided a framework for understanding and deciding education policy for the coming decades."

Other survey findings showed that the annual journey to Poland taken by 12th grade pupils from across the country, together with the testimony of survivors, were the most important and effective aspect of Holocaust education, and were highly valued by students, teachers and school principals. 99% of the students polled who had participated in the annual Poland trip said that they felt it was an effective means of learning about the Holocaust.

The results also showed that strengthening commitment to the existence of an independent State of Israel was an important Holocaust education goal for 100% of principals and 92% of teachers.

Instilling a feeling of connection to the destiny of the Jewish people was also listed as an important goal for Holocaust education, with 99% of principals and 93% of teachers polled agreeing.

More than half of the teachers polled said they had received training in Holocaust education through a professional enrichment course during the last two years.

Additionally, fewer disciplinary problems arose during a lesson on the Holocaust, showing how seriously the students relate to these studies and to the importance of preserving the memory of the Holocaust.

Dr. Cohen and his team of researchers met with 47 experts in Israel in the field of Holocaust teaching - among them historians, sociologists, philosophers, and educators - and interviewed them at length in order to identify the most important data to be obtained from the study.

The study was conducted from 2007-2009 with the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, along with several other organizations.

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