In early December the students of the Weiss-Livnat MA in Holocaust Studies program enjoyed a weeklong seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. The seminar was comprised of inside perspectives on the museum’s mission, creation, and various exhibits and activities. One of these days was spent in the Center or Humanistic Education, which works to turn theories of activism into practice, by using Holocaust education to teach humanistic values.
The day began with our students analyzing a number of quotes confronting the idea of genocide. This led to a discussion about how genocide can be understood differently in different disciplines, and the way such definitions have been adopted by activists today. Have slogans like “never again” been made empty by the genocides that followed the Holocaust? These kinds of questions and activities are at the core of the center. They push students to relate to different groups of people.
The students participated in other activities that showed the complex relationship between ideology and practice. Putting ideology into practice is easy once the ideology is accepted. This concept suggests that instead of asking how the Holocaust happened we should be asking how people accepted Nazi ideology. Once this ideology was accepted it was easy to implement legislation and social activities that reflected its philosophies.
The day ended with Dr. Netzer presenting the work the center does. By using the Holocaust as a teaching piece for humanistic values the center is able to create meaningful dialogue between Israeli Jewish and Arab teenagers. This partnership is built on the center’s philosophy that the Holocaust has “universal meanings across time and place” that can bring different kinds of people together, help them to understand each other, and build a better environment together.
Our time in the center had a big impact on many of our students. Last week, Máté Popovics wrote about its influence on him in a blog post. He said “Through the program I was able to enjoy a one week seminar at the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum. One day of this seminar was spent at the museum’s humanistic center where they take groups of Israeli Arab and Jewish students and foster dialogue that stems from Holocaust education. I would love to do some kind of work like that, which brings kids closer together and helps them understand each other’s problems and cultural traumas. I want to do the kind of work that lets people create a more open and peaceful life together.”
We are grateful to the museum for providing us with such a rich seminar. Each day provided something meaningful, and our time in the Center for Humanistic Education emphasized many ideas our students don’t get to express in the classroom. It was an inspiration to see the important work our friends at the Ghetto Fighters’ House do, and we can’t wait to go back.