Dr. Louise Silverstein, professor at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.
Jul 29, 2009 — As the surviving generation of the Holocaust enters their twilight years, a new research project spearheaded by Dr. Louise Silverstein, a professor at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, is examining how knowledge of the Holocaust is passed down to survivors’ grandchildren and taught at schools.
The multi-phase, long-term study began in 2007, with the support of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs, by creating an archive of interviews with grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Recent Ferkauf graduates Dr. Penina Dorfman ’09F and Marina Stolerman ’09F interviewed almost 30 third-generation, or “3G,” young adults and found a wide diversity of experiences.
“Some of the grandchildren knew a lot about their grandparents’ experiences while others knew very little,” Silverstein said.
Some participants were devoting their professional lives to studying the Holocaust while others stated that they almost never thought about the tragedy. One reported being continually haunted by thoughts of her grandparents’ suffering.
Silverstein became interested in learning about how the Holocaust was being taught in the U.S. and in Israel—and thus began the second phase of the project. Silverstein teamed up with Dr. Tal Litvak-Hirsch of Ben Gurion University—whom she met while on a trip to Israel to study Yad Vashem’s archives—to conduct a collaborative study comparing Israeli and U.S. educational approaches to teaching the Holocaust, and the effects of these educational efforts on 3G young adults. Sharon Peled, a Ferkauf doctoral student, is collecting and analyzing this data.
“One of the main findings that is emerging is the lack of a formal, standardized curriculum for teaching about the Holocaust in the U.S.,” Silverstein said. “Teaching is informal and highly variable. We find this state of affairs concerning. How can we be sure that the Holocaust will never be forgotten if it is not being taught well or even at all?”
In the project’s third phase, two Ferkauf graduate students, Dana Marnin and Penina Weiss, are compiling a bibliography of the variety of educational approaches to teaching the Holocaust in the U.S.
“Our goal is to identify the best programs and create a model curriculum that we will recommend to various state and national educational organizations,” Silverstein said. “We anticipate that new questions will arise as the research continues. Thus we eagerly look forward to additional phases in this project.”