Anonymous Donor Ensures Future Holocaust Education Symposium at IPFW

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Lee Roberts

In May 2016, current and future educators attended IPFW’s first Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies’ Pre-Service Teachers’ Symposium, an event made possible by 8 generous local and national supporters. Associate Professor Lee Roberts (German) coordinated the inaugural program, which involved faculty, community partners, and pre-service education students from IPFW, regional and national universities, and the northeast Indiana community.

The inaugural symposium was a success, news of which reached at least one philanthropist. In January 2017, an anonymous donor gave a gift of $5000 to Fort Wayne’s Congregation Achduth Vesholom (a community partner for the 2016 workshops and the oldest Jewish congregation in Indiana) toward the cost of another educator’s symposium. In conjunction with the congregation’s Holocaust Education Committee, a second symposium is being planned.

So what happened at the first symposium? Beyond traditional lecture-based sharing of historical knowledge about genocide studies, the group met with local Jewish leaders, learned about websites and other digital resources available to them, received a tour of Achduth Vesholom Temple and its stained glass window series depicting the story of the Jewish diaspora, and shared conversations over “scrumptious” meals.

As well as providing great food, Roberts explained, “We tried to make the workshops very interdisciplinary. We had speakers who explained how to teach about the Holocaust through history and German language and literature, as one might expect, but also through biology (Mengele’s experiments) and music (with a live performance), seemingly less likely disciplines. One presenter shared his students’ artwork about the Holocaust. We also had several presentations on digital and on-line Holocaust resources.” The planning group hopes to continue or expand each symposium’s interdisciplinary features. The agenda for the inaugural symposium shows the diverse range of topics.

Workshop participant Michael Bienz (IUB, social studies education, ’15) found the workshops exceeded his expectations. “I wanted to learn teaching strategies and find resources to help me discuss the Holocaust with the complexity and nuance the topic deserves as opposed to a simplistic narrative offered by a traditional K-12 textbook. . . . I also have shown the survivor testimonies on the iWitness website during lessons on the Rwandan genocide.”

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Cody Fuelling

The workshop helped senior Cody Fuelling “find focus” for his academic work, especially his Honors Program project on the status of genocide education in the United States. The symposium also helped him redirect some of his degree plan. “I cannot exaggerate how much this week (in combination with thoughts I was already having at the time) actually played into the decision” to major in political science as well as history.

Fuelling will present his honors project on genocide and US education at the spring 2017 Honors Showcase. In May, he will graduate with bachelors’ of art in history and in political science, and honors and international studies certificates.

Organizer Roberts insisted that the workshop’s success was a shared accomplishment: “It was a group effort (Holocaust Education Committee!), and we all feel grateful for this support. I hope that the anonymous donor will hear how much it means to us and ultimately also to students and teachers.”

For more information on the inaugural or future symposia for pre-service teachers, please contact Lee Roberts at robertlm@ipfw.edu.

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