California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) will host the Eva and Eugene Schlesinger Teacher Training Endowed Workshop on the Holocaust Aug. 6-10 in the campus’ Karl Anatol Center with the goal of training local school educators in ways to teach about the Nazi genocide.
“This workshop will bring high school teachers on campus for curriculum development workshops that will enable them to teach students about the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way,” explained CSULB History Professor Jeffrey Blutinger, who is also the university’s inaugural Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair for Jewish Studies.
Holocaust education is a state standard usually taught at the 10th and 11th grades, Blutinger said. Part of the instruction comes in history and part in language arts.
“But those who instruct the Holocaust may not have taken a class in the subject. Their knowledge may be limited to whatever movies they’ve seen or whatever world history textbook they read,” he noted. “What we are doing is providing them information about the subject, including a general overview accompanied by binder material prepared by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) titled 'Echoes and Reflections.’ This spring we raised enough funds to establish an endowment that will make the workshops a permanent fixture on campus.”
Participating teachers receive up to a $200 stipend to pay for food and parking and may receive up to two units of service credit.
The CSULB Jewish Studies Program was approached in 2009 by Holocaust survivor Gerda Seifer and her husband, Harold, with the seed gift that created the teacher workshop, Blutinger said.
“There’s nothing like it available in Southern California,” he said. “It was a chance to fill a major need. I thought it was a terrific idea. It gives Jewish Studies at CSULB a chance to increase its visibility.”
The workshop will begin with a CSULB faculty-led review of the genocide and an introduction to the program’s theme, “Human Responses to the Holocaust.” Prior workshop themes have included “Art and the Holocaust” (2011) and “Children and the Holocaust” (2010).
The program begins on Monday, Aug. 6, with Blutinger’s address at 10:15 a.m. on “The Holocaust: A History” followed at 1 p.m. by Stacy Jackson from the ADL on “Echoes and Reflections.”
The program continues on Tuesday, Aug. 7, with an address at 8:30 a.m. by Bill Younglove on “Perpetrators, Victims and Bystanders” followed by Michael Berenbaum’s presentation on “Perpetrators.” Berenbaum is an American scholar, professor, rabbi, writer and filmmaker who specializes in the study of the memorialization of the Holocaust.
The workshops will bring participants to the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum on Wednesday, Aug. 8, for an exploration of the topic of “Victims.” Wolf Gruner from UC Irvine will speak at 10:30 a.m. on “Victims of the Holocaust” followed by a 1 p.m. museum address by survivor Sol Berger.
On Thursday, Aug. 9, Blutinger will speak on “Bystanders” at 9:30 a.m., Sherry Bard with an interactive USC Shoah Foundation presentation followed by an address by Gerda Seifer on “Living with a Rescuer.”
The conference concludes on Friday, Aug. 10, with Younglove on “Denying the Holocaust,” and CSULB Emeritus Professor Don Schwartz on “Deniers.” In the afternoon, Ron Schmidt’s documentary “Labyrinth,” will explore the questions of Holocaust memory.
“Holocaust denial is not a usual topic in programs like these,” Blutinger pointed out, “but we feel teachers will encounter students who have been exposed to denialist arguments or who end up on denier websites while researching the Holocaust and who don’t understand what they are reading. Teachers even encounter deniers among their family and friends. This program addresses that.”
Blutinger believes the workshop helps to distinguish CSULB’s Jewish Studies Programs from others. “This is one of the few programs of Jewish Studies in the nation to run a five-day workshop on the Holocaust,” he explained. “We bring together teachers from all over Southern California. Currently, we have a waiting list of teachers from San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.”
Educator feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and Blutinger hopes to use that support to grow the program.
“I’d like to expand the workshops to a series of one-day sessions during the year,” he explained. “I want to offer a best practices workshop involving bringing back alumni from previous programs. How did it work? How can we do it better? It would give educators the opportunity to exchange ideas with each other about how to use the materials they have been given for their classrooms.”
Blutinger feels the workshop also benefits CSULB through collaborations between the campus and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).
“It has already done so in that we were able to use last year’s workshop as a means to getting this campus designated a Belfer first-step campus by the USHMM,” he said. “I think this partnership benefits both institutions. It is a way for CSULB to expand Holocaust education and awareness. I think that’s a good first step.”