Lynne Rosenbaum Ravas: A call for Holocaust education
My career as a Holocaust educator began 40 years ago when materials were scarce, and a network of fellow Holocaust educators was even scarcer. In my early days of teaching, helping students connect the dots from the Holocaust to their world was at times frustrating. I persevered, hoping my students would understand that anti-Semitism, intolerance and xenophobia can lead to future genocides.
I was not naïve. I knew anti-Semitism existed, but I did not believe that our society would allow it to be used as justification for murder.
As the child of a survivor who remembers Kristallnacht, the massacre in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 drained my hope.
How could anyone violate a house of worship? The horrors of Kristallnacht echo loudly in the minds of the survivors and the families of the victims.
How could this happen again? How could this happen in Pittsburgh? When did “never again” suddenly apply to “now” in the U.S.?
The vigils held throughout the city have helped remind Pittsburghers that we are one family.
The Pittsburgh Police cadets who spent a day in training at the Holocaust Center were not simply fulfilling their duties; they understood the significance of murdering Jews in the synagogue on Shabbat.
The Jewish doctors, nurses and hospital staff who treated the gunman ignored his racist rants and provided him with impeccable care. With grace they rose above the hatred.
Pittsburghers are resilient and have roots of steel, but we feel the pain of loss deeply when it is the result of hate and violence. We are stronger together, and the physical wounds will heal.
Incredible gestures of support have been offered by every religious and ethnic group. Our Muslim neighbors raised money, but their most meaningful offers included standing outside the synagogues during services, walking people to and from the grocery stores, and being present.
I am not afraid of the man with the gun as much as I am terrified by people who are cheering his actions and emboldening anti-Semitism sentiment. As Holocaust educators, we need to help students connect the dots between past events and current events.
Echoes & Reflections has been a reliable resource that helped me share the most necessary information on Holocaust history and its connection to current issues around anti-Semitism and all forms of hate facing today’s world. My students also relied on survivors’ testimonies from IWitness and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) to understand the unique situation of each victim.
Holocaust education is not limited to the events between 1933 and 1945. Our students need to know that anti-Semitism and animosity did not end when Germany surrendered, and it still exists today. For students to understand the dangers of individuals or groups who spout conspiracy theories and perpetuate violence against Jews and other groups , we must continue to discuss the events of the Holocaust and give students the tools to recognize and eliminate this hatred.
Lynne Rosenbaum Ravas volunteers with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.