Studying the Legacy of the Holocaust

Posted on February 4th, 2015 by

Lessons of the Shoah, a high school interfaith program, took place on February 3 at John Carroll High School in Harford County. Designed as a day of exploration, dialogue and commemoration using the Holocaust and its lessons as a starting point to promote tolerance, understanding and respect among students of diverse backgrounds, the program featured workshops, survivor testimony and student presentations and reflections.

Lessons of the Shoah, 2015

Lessons of the Shoah, 2015

More than 250 students and 30 teachers representing 21 schools participated in the day long program that was spearheaded by John Carroll teacher Louise Geczy and co-sponsored by the JMM and Baltimore Jewish Council. Participating schools included public (from Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County), independent and parochial (Jewish and Catholic) schools.

After an opening program in which students watched a video produced by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous documenting a reunion between a Holocaust survivor and the non-Jewish family that rescued him (learn more about the JFR at, students attended two workshops of their choice. Options included genocide prevention led by Warren Marcus of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collaborators and Bystanders facilitated by Poly High School teacher Josh Headly, and a history of antisemitism by Father Bob Albright.

The JMM also lead a breakout session using our Lives Lost, Lives Found history kit to engage students in critical thinking as they analyzed photographs exploring the experiences of German Jewish refugees who found safe haven in Baltimore in the 1930s.

As part of the activity students worked in small groups to explore photos that were part of the exhibit.

As part of the activity students worked in small groups to explore photos that were part of the exhibit.

As a culminating activity, students create a timeline of photos.

As a culminating activity, students create a timeline of photos.

Teachers and students split up during lunch giving students the chance to get to know one another while teachers networked and listened to a panel of Holocaust educators who shared their tips for teaching the topic.

After lunch the entire group gathered for the most moving part of the program to hear Holocaust survivors Esther and Howard Kaidanow share their stories of survival.

Esther Kaidonow speaking.

Esther Kaidanow speaking.

Students gathered with the Kaidonows to express their appreciation.

Students gathered with the Kaidanows to express their appreciation.

Following the testimony, students worked in small groups to share reflections of the day.

Students working in small groups.

Students working in small groups.

They were asked to write down their final thoughts about the lasting legacy of the Holocaust on index cards that they posted for all to read.

Students posting their comments.

Students posting their comments.

Sample reflections

Sample reflections

Lessons of the Shoah is a program that the JMM and BJC have facilitated for several years in several different iterations. This was the second year that we have used the format of a day long program for students from many different schools. The impressive turnout of students and teachers from such a diverse group of schools and the beautiful reflections shared by students at the end of the day reflect the importance of providing opportunities for teens to learn from one another using the lessons of the Holocaust as inspiration for discourse.

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

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Lessons of the Shoah

Posted on May 18th, 2011 by


It is a Tuesday night, and a group of teens are gathered in a conference room at the JCC, laughing, talking with one another, and eating pizza. Suddenly the room grows quiet as Holocaust survivor Rachel Bodner begins talking about her experiences as a hidden child during the Holocaust. Students listen intently as she shares her story, and then ask her questions.

students listening to Holocaust survivor, Rachel Bodner

As Mrs. Bodner concludes her talk, a second speaker, George Mushayuma speaks about his experiences during a more recent instance of tragedy as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

students listening to George Mushayuma

Lessons of the Shoah students with Mrs. Bodner and Mr. Mushayuma

While learning about the Holocaust and contemporary genocide is being taught in classrooms throughout the Maryland, what is unique about this particular evening is that the audience includes teens from several different schools. These teens have elected to participate in Lessons of the Shoah, an interfaith initiative bringing together Catholic and Jewish high school students for a year-long series of programs that fosters dialogue and understanding among high school students of diverse backgrounds. Currently in its third year, and jointly sponsored by the JMM and Baltimore Jewish Council, students spend evenings learning with one another about basic tenets central to Judaism and Catholicism.

students listening as Father Robert Albright presents a talk on the Parting of the Way

While several sessions feature speakers, the emphasis is on having students share with one another their own personal reflections of the importance of faith in their lives. Field trips to the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore Basilica (http:///  provide additional opportunities for exploring ritual objects and sacred space. The goal of these programs is to encourage teens to learn from one another as they have opportunities to meet, socialize, and study together.

book group discussion on teen diaries

Students learn about the Holocaust, by reading diaries of teens who perished, listening to and meeting Holocaust survivors, and by visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum ( Discussions and lessons about the Holocaust serve as a tool for inspiring participants to take action against contemporary injustices, and students work together on a group project that seeks to raise attention about a contemporary issue. Last year’s group decided to focus their attention on contemporary genocide in Darfur and took up a collection for shoes to send to victims. This year, the group decided to band together to combat bullying – a topic that has been in the news lately due to several prominent news stories about the tragic consequences of teens harassing their peers. At each session, students get together to brainstorm ways for raising awareness of this problem and to gather resources to advocate against bullying in schools.

The program culminates with student participation in the community Yom Hashoah program. Participants shared their group project with guests and walked in the ceremony’s processional. It was touching to see how much the program meant to the teens after spending the year learning about the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance.

On Tuesday, May 17, students, parents, and teachers gathered at Emmanuel Monastery for our final program celebrating their successful completion of the program. Students shared their reflections of what they have gained by participating in the Lessons of the Shoah as well as their future plans.

Congratulations to the Lessons of the Shoah class of 2011. We enjoyed spending the year getting to know you and are proud of your accomplishments!

To learn more about Lessons of the Shoah, contact Deborah Cardin at (410) 732-6400 x236 /


A blog post by Education Director Deborah Cardin.



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