As Head of Spanish and Portuguese Speakers Desk at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust my main job consists of organizing and coordinating seminars for Spanish and Portuguese speaking educators from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, who are interested in studying about the Holocaust, and helping them to understand how to teach this important subject in the classroom. We also produce and translate educational materials into Spanish and Portuguese and have a website in both languages.
This winter has been especially busy as we hosted 4 seminars for Latin American educators. Among the groups who participated in seminars thus far over the past couple months include Masbirim Argentina, a program for university students that have been studying about the Shoah and Morei Morim Lehoraat Hashoah, teachers who have already attended a seminar at the International School for Holocaust studies and have returned as graduates for a more advanced learning program. In addition, to the Yad Vashem seminar, teachers also participated in a year-long program and attended seminars conducted by BAMA (a center for Jewish education) in Buenos Aires, took an online course about the ghettos during the Shoah, and initiated a final project in a Jewish institution before attending the final seminar at Yad Vashem.
The third seminar hosted this winter at Yad Vashem was composed of Latin American educators who work in Jewish educational institutions. More than 27 teachers from 5 countries participated in the seminar from January 13-23, 2014 including educators from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay. During the 10-day seminar the group studied many of the historical and pedagogical components of the Holocaust, and met survivors who told them their stories and shared with them their life’s experiences. Many participants in the seminar said that hearing the personal stories of Holocaust survivors was one of the most touching moments throughout the educational process. As one graduate of the winter seminar said, “Yad Vashem has taken this extremely difficult subject and successfully passed it on to us [teachers] who in turn have an obligation to pass it on forward to our students."
Our fourth winter seminar which recently concluded consisted of 28 teachers (from kindergarden all the way to the university level) from 10 Latin American countries including: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, all coming together at the International School for Holocaust Studies around the important goal of providing quality education. In this seminar, for the first time ever we had a representative of the Ministry of Education from Guatemala, who is responsible for the curriculum of Social Sciences for all grade levels and who has been working towards reapplying Shoah education for the schools in Guatemala. The opportunity to be part of the educational process in which the Shoah is being integrated into the curriculum of countries like Guatemala is of extreme importance.
In all our seminars, one of the more exciting and moving issues is the meeting between teachers from all parts of the world, who are interested in sharing their experiences about teaching the Holocaust and creating the forum for them to learn from one another. Recently, I traveled to Costa Rica to take part in educational development programs that began in September 2009, where B’nai B’rith Costa Rica, in collaboration with the social studies departments of local school districts for the high school curriculum in the Ministry of Education, have been training teachers about the Holocaust. Among those I met are members of the Costa Rican Ministry of Education and a group of 12 teachers, all of which are graduates of the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, that are now responsible for training all the social studies teachers of Costa Rica.
We hope in the future to be able to continue training teachers, learning about their needs are and provide them with the necessary tools for teaching about the Holocaust.