Friday, February 26, 2010

Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers' Program

On Valentine's Day weekend, Becky and I traveled through the snow drifts to Washington, DC for the semi-annual National Alumni Conference - Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers' Program. Ten years ago I traveled to Poland and Israel with 40 other wonderful teachers from all over the United States and Holocaust survivor and author, Vladka Meed, to study the Holocaust at the actual sites in Poland and at Yad Vashem, center for Holocaust studies in Israel. Every other year, we have a reunion of all the teachers who are graduates of the program and Becky has gone with me for each reunion except for one. It's something we really look forward to attending together.
The reunion is held at the beautiful Mayflower Hotel. Can you believe it? For the opening reception Becky and I both brought black and teal outfits to wear. So often we show up either in the same colors or the same sweater or shirt in a different color. Great minds think alike! In spite of her preggie belly, there were folks who asked her what grade she was in, in school!
Because the theme of the conference was "resistance," many of the sessions focused on using the film Defiance, starring Daniel Craig, as one of the Bielski brothers. Sam Bloch, pictured below, joined the Bielski Brigade when he was seventeen at the time. He gave a moving testimonial about his involvement in the Jewish partisan group that saved so many Jews. If you have not seen this movie, you should. It's an amazing story.
We also heard the behind the scenes stories of the making of the movie by the screenwriter himself! What a treat!
For about twelve years I have served on the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council. Many of our council members have also gone on the trip and are graduates of the program. They are an awesome group of people.
This was the first reunion that Vladka missed because she is so frail. We are losing our Holocaust survivors and our WW II liberators every day. Participating in Vladka's program in 2000 was a life changing experience for me. It impacted me in so many ways and made me a better teacher. If you are a teacher reading this blog or know someone who teaches, I would love to provide information about this program. Just shoot me an email. To Vladka: "You were missed and in our hearts. We love you!"

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