Learning how to teach the Holocaust
EDWARDS ” Jennifer Stiebel, a history teacher at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School in Edwards, will head to Israel with 30 other Catholic educators to learn firsthand about Judaism.
The teachers were selected to participate in the Anti-Defamation League’s “Bearing Witness Advanced: Anti-Semitism, The Holocaust and Contemporary Issues” program.
The advanced abroad program began last year, modeled after the regional Bearing Witness program, which Stiebel attended in July 2003.
“I’m interested in teaching the Holocaust in a way that’s not overwhelming to eighth graders,” Stiebel said. “This will show me how to use all the resources in the right way to get the horrible reality across to them.”
The teachers left Sunday to spend two days at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore to prepare for the trip with lectures and workshops. Before they leave the states, they will spend a day at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
From there, they will spend a week in Israel touring holy sites and meeting with Holocaust survivors and anti-Semitism experts. The itinerary includes visits to the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and a possible address by the Papal Nuncio.
“It will be a spiritual awakening to actually see the places I’ve learned about,” said Stiebel, who is looking forward to floating in the Dead Sea.
Christina Hundley from the Anti-Defamation League’s Arizona Regional Office said sightseeing will be dispersed throughout history lessons and cultural experiences. For example, teachers will share a Shabbat meal with a family in Safed, which was the favorite of many on last year’s trip, Hundley said.
“The purpose of the trip is to examine the relationship between Catholics and Jews throughout time, what it’s been and where it’s going,” Hundley said. “There’s always been a controversy in the Catholic church about the Jewish religion, and we’re trying to rectify that.”
The program will also study the role of the church during the Holocaust and provide ways for teachers to cover these issues in the classroom.
For three years after returning from the trip, Stiebel and the other educators will send their lesson plans to the Anti-Defamation League for review.
“This gives them a more comprehensive curricula,” Hundley said. “It’s their creative outlet to deal with what they learned. Students are getting more info than from a textbook because they get to look at it through their teacher’s eyes.”
Stiebel said she hopes her experiences in Israel will “revamp” her material back in the classroom. She spends a an eight-week quarter covering World War II and the Holocaust in her eighth grade U.S. history class.
“There are more sides to the story,” she said. “It’s not just Hitler. There were bystanders, collaborators, survivors. The average person can morally go the wrong way.”
With Holocaust survivors aging, Stiebel said she feels an urgency on this trip.
“This may be the last time for survivors to talk,” Stiebel said. “I’ll be bearing witness. I can say I sat there and listened and saw stories retold. It’s a lesson you don’t ever want to forget.”
Brooke Bates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org