What is the Future of Holocaust Education?

Teaching the Coming Generations How to Preserve the History of the Holocaust

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, The Nachshon Project, in conjunction with the Yeshiva University Student Holocaust Education Movement and a number of other YU organization, presented a panel discussion on “The Future of Holocaust Education,” featuring Marc Fein (director of TJJ Ambassadors Poland), Tova Fish-Rosenberg (founder of Names, Not Numbers) and Greta Elbogen (Holocaust survivor, educator and poet).

(l-r): Tova Fish-Rosenberg, Marc Fein and Greta Elbogen

The discussion centered around the tension between what Fein called “performative education” and education for engagement and authenticity.

The former focuses on making the proper gestures: people meet in a darkened auditorium, six candles are lit, everyone sings Hatikvah and Yom HaShoah has been observed.

The latter effort aims for more than ritual; the goal is to have what people learn about the Holocaust transform their lives in a material and proactive way. “The only way to educate for memory,” said Fein, “is to build the conditions for engagement that demands an action: if not that, then what is the point?”

Rosenberg agreed, noting that how the hundreds of interviews Names, Not Numbers has conducted are not only done to preserve the memories and stories of the original generation of survivors but also to turn the newest generations into advocates for preserving this history. She suggested a number of ways people can practice advocacy, from simply meeting with survivors and recording their stories to lobbying local and state governments to make Holocaust education mandatory at all levels. (For more information about the work that Names, Not Numbers has done at Yeshiva University, click here and here.)

Elbogen demonstrated a little of what Fein and Rosenberg were getting at when they spoke about engagement and authenticity by reading from her book of poems, God Plays Hide and Seek. In these poems, as she explained, “I see myself as a teacher able to help others understand that if we choose to, we are able to leave behind the notion of being victims and embrace life, living it to the fullest.”

Read about what Yeshiva University does to promote Holocaust education: International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Reflections on the State of Holocaust Education and Remembering the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht.