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JUL 12, 2011

Teacher Workshop at CSULB Will Focus on Age-Appropriate Ways to Teach the Holocaust (

Teacher Workshop at CSULB Will Focus on Age-Appropriate Ways to Teach the Holocaust

With the goal of training local teachers in ways to teach students about the Nazi genocide, the Teacher Workshop on the Holocaust will be held Aug. 8-12 at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) for the second consecutive year.

“This workshop will bring high school teachers on campus for curriculum development workshops that will enable them to teach students about the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way,” explained Jeffrey Blutinger, an associate professor of history and CSULB’s inaugural Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair for Jewish Studies.

“Holocaust education is a state standard usually taught in the 10th and 11th grades. Part of the instruction comes in history and part in language arts, but those who instruct the Holocaust may not have taken a class in the subject. Their knowledge may be limited to whatever movies they’ve seen or whatever world history textbook they read at university,” he explained. “What we are doing is providing them information about the subject including a general overview accompanied by binder material prepared by the Anti-Defamation League titled ‘Echoes and Reflections.’”

Teachers taking part in the workshop receive a $100 stipend to pay for food and parking and may receive up to two units of service credit.

Holocaust survivor Gerda Seifer and her husband, Harold, approached the CSULB Jewish Studies Program in 2009 with the seed gift that created the teacher workshop. “There’s nothing like it available in Southern California,” Blutinger noted. “It was a chance to fill a major need, and it gives Jewish studies at CSULB a chance to increase its visibility. We are currently raising endowment funds that will make the workshops a permanent fixture on campus.”

This year’s workshop will begin with a CSULB faculty-led review of the genocide and an introduction to the program’s theme, “Art and the Holocaust.” (The inaugural workshop’s 2010 theme was “Children and the Holocaust.”)

“This year, the topic will be explored in two perspectives,” Blutinger pointed out. “We will examine art as perpetrator of the Holocaust and art as resistance. We will study the theory of art and propaganda within a totalitarian system. We will look at film as a tool in the killing process and the creation of Nazi films that advocated genocide. Then, we will switch gears to look at art created by victims as a way of resisting Nazis.”

The workshop also will include a visit to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

On the final day, workshop participants will examine issues of memory and artistic representation through the classic illustrated texts “Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” and “Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began” by Art Spiegelman.

The program tracks its workshop success through teacher feedback. “We ask participants during and at the conclusion of the conference for their response as well as contacting the first-year participants,” Blutinger said. “Teachers spoke of how helpful the course was in their instruction and how it enabled them to assist colleagues. It was very heartening to hear how well they responded.”

John Trovato of Torrance High School shared the material he received with his school’s History Department. “I have engaged the students in discussions on the definition of the Holocaust and what is genocide,” he said. “The conference has made me aware of how important it is to discuss the Holocaust and genocide in the world to students who are really so far removed from realities of history and their impact.”

Blutinger said he feels the workshop fits into the mission of Jewish studies at CSULB by moving the program more and more into the field of teacher preparation and education.

“This workshop works well with one of CSULB’s core missions—to prepare teachers,” he said. “The way for Jewish studies to distinguish itself from other Southern California programs is to specialize in a particular area. The area that works best for this campus is teacher training.”