The Conversation

Spring Issue 2022

We want to hear from you. To join the conversation, send a letter to editor@momentmag.com.

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION 

WE NEED MORE TEACHERS 

Thank you for this excellent article (“The State of Holocaust Education in America,” Winter 2022). It is 50 years since Holocaust education was established. Society was ready to ask: How did this happen? Why did it happen?

When survivors like me come to schools to tell our courageous stories of survival, students are deeply touched. With the loss of survivors, teachers can still show films of testimony. And fortunately, there are family members of survivors who speak about their parents, using memorabilia, film and interviews.

But teachers are overwhelmed with responsibilities. They are asked to teach required subjects but also to mold character and citizenship, stop hate and help students develop empathy. The act of legislating Holocaust education doesn’t mean that it will be taught well or correctly. There are plenty of examples of ignorance by administrators, members of Boards of Education and teachers.

The teachers who choose to study and teach about the Holocaust are very much needed, especially at this challenging time in history. A special thanks for your hard work to make this a better world for our children and future generations.
Peppy Margolis
Galloway, NJ

CHALLENGES WE FACE

An important aspect of Dan Freedman’s excellent article is its recognition and concern regarding the difficulty of measuring the degree of learning that occurs as a result of Holocaust education in our schools. The development of effective and reliable methods and instruments to assess what students are learning is complex because of numerous factors: the wide disparity between what different schools teach; how much time is devoted to instruction on the Holocaust and the lacking knowledge base of teachers who have not studied this subject thoroughly themselves. Compounding the challenge is the unintended impact of state testing, which for several decades has placed greater emphasis on reading, writing and mathematics. In many schools, this has resulted in less time and fewer resources devoted to the teaching of social studies, where lessons on the Holocaust are normally taught. Since formal education must play a key role in assuring that future generations attain knowledge of the Holocaust and keep its memory alive, we must continue to build upon the impressive foundation that has been established.
Richard Flaim
The Villages, FL

LESSONS LEARNED 

The extensiveness of this article, buttressed by its in-depth research, will make it a fascinating piece for quite some time to come. I was one of many involved in the development of California’s Holocaust education curriculum. It was well over ten years between the legislative approval of California’s mandate in 1985 and the start of widespread teaching about the Holocaust in classrooms. The lesson we learned is that without a legion of educators and advocates devoted to this subject, the words of any state’s mandates are meaningless. I hope that our experience truly will help state leaders and teachers devise meaningful Holocaust teaching mandates.

These are a few issues we struggled with in California:

  • How best to determine “age-appropriate” instruction.
  • How best to integrate within schools’ curricula—within specific subjects or, perhaps, even across core subjects.
  • How (if at all) to fund teacher trainings, including in-person and/or electronic—and whether via colleges, Holocaust centers/museums, professional subject-matter organizations or by other means.
  • How to teach about the Holocaust in a world in which we continue to struggle with threats and acts of genocide.
  • How to align a state’s mandate with the federal Never Again Education Act, approved by Congress in 2020.

Perhaps most importantly, states and schools must learn how best to utilize the expansive educational resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
William Younglove
Lakewood, CA

“IT” CAN HAPPEN HERE

I appreciate Dan Freedman’s very thorough article. When my colleagues and I developed one of the first instructional units on Holocaust education for high school students back in 1972—which Freedman cites—we were anxious to see this vital subject taught in high schools all over the country.

Yet, despite the fact that events—both here and abroad—continue to make it strikingly clear that “it” can happen here, I fear that far too many high school students still don’t have the opportunity to learn about the subject.

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My research on teaching about the Holocaust has revealed that when students learn about the causes of prejudice—and how such attitudes can lead to genocidal behavior—many shed their own prejudices. Put simply, Holocaust education can open young minds.
Roselle Kline Chartock
Great Barrington, MA

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

A NORTH STAR

Nadine Epstein’s beautiful and deeply moving essay (“Elie Wiesel and Two Girls He Never Met,” Winter 2022) has an important message. It reminds us all how crucial it is to remember and share the horrific and unthinkable history of the Holocaust with people of all ages, but especially our youth and the generations to come. Epstein’s words and Moment Magazine provide a North Star for so many of us at a time when hate and antisemitism are growing exponentially in the United States and around the world.

We must all continue to raise awareness about the Holocaust, speak out against hate, encourage others to be upstanders and work for justice. Thank you for all you do for this cause.
Allison Silberberg
Former mayor of Alexandria, VA

A WRITER OF CLARITY

I just got my hard copy of the issue. As usual, I was very impressed. Nadine Epstein’s opening remarks were fabulous. She is a writer of clarity who has the ability to create pictures for the reader. There are times when I read something she writes and it just brings her points home. My thanks to her for sharing stories of her life with us.
Brenda Yanni
Park Ridge, NJ

MOMENT DEBATE

ABORTION IS A RELIGIOUS ISSUE 

I just finished reading your debate on whether or not banning abortion would curtail Jews’ religious freedom (“Would a Ban on Abortion Curtail Jews’ Religious Freedom?” Winter 2022). Rabbi Shlomo Brody tries to prove that abortion “shouldn’t be framed as a religion-and-state issue,” but I strongly disagree. How could it not be when different religions have different definitions of when life begins? Catholicism says it begins at conception and Judaism says it begins when most of the body has emerged from the womb at birth. So if that’s defined by religion, so is abortion.
Nita Polay Levin
Edison, NJ

A DISGRACEFUL DISCUSSION

The title of the discussion is as ridiculous as some of the answers. Danya Ruttenberg assumes that having an abortion is always an intrinsic right in Judaism and that “… abortion may be acceptable ‘even for a slim reason, such as to prevent disgrace.’” Any reasonable person would agree that having an abortion is an important decision and should not be done for a “slim reason.” The real disgrace is that “this has been mainstream halacha for a long time.” Similarly, Ruttenberg seems to think that the only way to create “…a world where every child who is born is supported and cared for” is to abort the child rather than change how we as a society raise our children. That is also a disgrace.

I have never heard of the term “abortion justice,” but I do not think that the women who were never born would think they were treated with justice. However, they are not around to make their case.
Deborah Prigal
Washington, DC

THE CONVERSATION

LEARN ARAMAIC

Moment’s winter edition was worth waiting for. The letters section (“The Conversation,” Winter 2022) provided a lively discussion of issues, but I am puzzled by a sentence in Maggie Anton’s letter where she writes [discussing the Talmud and barriers to its study]: “…and the latter [progressive Jews] by the barrier of not understanding Aramaic.” Any literature is best understood in the original language. However, between the Steinsaltz and Sefaria (the latter is free) translations, the language barrier is no longer an excuse. In addition, who’s stopping progressives from learning Aramaic?
Susanna Levin
New Rochelle, NY

One thought on “The Conversation

  1. Maggie Anton says:

    Regarding Susanna Levin’s comment “Learn Aramaic,” I completely agree that Talmud is best learned in the original language. However, that raises, and has raised for generations, a nearly insurmountable barrier. And I certainly agree with her that with the wide availability of excellent translations today, not understanding Aramaic is merely an excuse.

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