Conference organizer and Director of the Jewish World and International Seminars Department Ephraim Kaye opens "The Shoah and Jewish Identity: Challenges in Jewish Education" International Conference
Dorit Novak, Director General of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, welcomed the audience of top-level Jewish educators from around the world
Dorit Golender, Vice President of Community Relations for the Genesis Philanthropy Group, (GPG) spoke about the importance of Holocaust education and commemoration in the areas of the Former Soviet Union
Yad Vashem Council Chairman and Holocaust survivor Rabbi Israel Meir Lau lights the Krakow Menorah – a 200-year-old hanukiah from Yad Vashem's Artifacts Collection
26 December 2016
Over 200 Jewish day school principals, headmasters and senior Jewish Studies educators, from 34 countries and six continents around the world, gathered tonight at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies for the opening of a four-day conference entitled "The Shoah and Jewish Identity: Challenges in Jewish Education." The international conference is the largest and most prestigious gathering of worldwide leaders in Jewish education. Throughout the conference, leading experts from Yad Vashem will present its unique and cutting-edge pedagogical approaches to Holocaust education. The conference will present Holocaust education as a compelling, engaging and inspirational topic, which remains relevant to Jewish students in Israel and the Diaspora.
At the opening ceremony, Yad Vashem Director General Dorit Novak and Vice President, Community Relations, of the Genesis Philanthropy Group
Dorit Golender welcomed the participants. Recalling the dearth of information regarding the Holocaust in the Former Soviet Union, Golender said: "The history of the Holocaust was intentionally silenced by the Soviet regime and remained largely unknown." Nevertheless, she was made aware of the events of the Shoah by her mother, the sole survivor of her family, and was determined to enable its commemoration for future generations. "Genesis Philanthropy Group saw Yad Vashem as a natural partner because of its leading expertise, infrastructure and enormous international reach. Together we are striving to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust and the heroism of the Jewish martyrs are never forgotten."
In advance of the conference, GPG President and CEO Ilia Salita said: "The long-term partnership between Genesis Philanthropy Group and Yad Vashem has brought about many benefits for the cause of Holocaust research and education, especially in closing the gaps in the history of tragedy and heroism of the Jews of the Former Soviet Union. This conference continues the well-established tradition of academic and practical exchanges between scholars and educators from all over the world, which is enormously important for the future generations of students of the Holocaust."
The traditional lighting of the Hanukah candles – a feature of the conference each evening, at which a Holocaust-related Hanukiah (menorah) was lit – was led by Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and world-renowned Holocaust survivor Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. The menorah used dates from the late 18th or early 19th century and originates from Krakow – where Rabbi Lau's mother grew up. Its shape is reminiscent of the facades of wooden synagogues common in Lithuania and Poland up until WWII, the majority of which were burned and destroyed during the Shoah. "The root of the word Hanukah is from the Hebrew word chinuch – education," explained Rabbi Lau. "This is the holiday of Jewish education and Jewish identity. That is why it is befitting for you all to gather here in Yad Vashem over the festival of Hanukah for a conference on Jewish identity during the Shoah. 3,400 years of Jewish continuity is the unbroken chain of Jewish immortality and you, the Jewish educators, hold the key for the future destiny of the Jewish people."
The audience also greatly enjoyed an a cappella vocal performance by the hugely talented and popular group, Kippalive.
The International Conference is generously supported by The Asper Foundation, the Adelson Family Foundation, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Israel Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.