Dr. Yael Granot-Bein is the Administrative Director of the Strochlitz Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and an M.A. and a Ph.D. In Jewish History from the University of Haifa. Her Ph.D. dissertation dealt with Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to Britain at the end of the 19th century, and in particular with juvenile delinquency and deserted children in the Anglo-Jewish community. She has taught courses on the history of childhood and immigration in the Department of History and the Department for Multi-Disciplinary Studies at the University of Haifa. She is also the director of the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies and we are thrilled she has written a special post about Yom HaShoah:
I have always stayed away from the topic of the Holocaust. Though I was trained as a historian, I have never researched my ancestors’ Holocaust history. My grandparents who have immigrated to pre-state Israel from Poland on the eve of the Second World War lost their entire family, but I have never asked for their names or researched their fate. Having experienced such an intense emotional reaction when reading Anna Frank’s diary as an 11 years old, I hid the diary as deeply as I could in my closet – hoping that the saying “out of sight, out of mind” would work its magic. And later, when I grew up I was disturbed by the politization of the Holocaust by all sides of the political spectrum in Israel and how each uses the horrific historical events to justify their positions. I stayed away.
If someone would have told me ten years ago that there would come a day in which supporting and encouraging students in their Holocaust research would be my chosen career, I would have dismissed it immediately. But life has a funny way of surprising us and I have been fortunate to be given an opportunity to connect to the Holocaust through my students – through their passion, commitment and dedication to the cause.
Every year I am astonished by our students – they come to our program from all over the world, inspired by the things they see happening today – racism and anti-Semitism; Holocaust denial; poor treatment of Holocaust survivors. They are motivated by an ardent wish to know more, understand more, see the bigger and broaden picture. They are committed to making a difference. Some of them have established or work in Non-profit organizations committed to social change: raising awareness to present day genocide; fighting social injustice and discrimination. Some of them are committed to educating younger generations in a multi-cultural world. They face huge challenges such as teaching the Holocaust to unsympathetic or even indifferent audiences; standing up to political agendas when teaching the Holocaust and making its lessons relevant in today’s fast-paced, facebooked and twittered world. Our students are not daunted. They are full of creative ideas and are motivated by their commitment to making this world a better place.
Even though the Holocaust is hardly out of sight in my current life, I still haven’t pursued any research of the names of my ancestors or their fates. I’m an awe of the students I work with and their ability to confront these issues each day. These students have become a bridge for me to grapple with the Holocaust as an Israeli, as an educator and as a historian. On Yom HaShoah we all take some moments to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and the horrible things that happened throughout the Second World War, but this kind of commemoration is daily in the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies. It isn’t natural for me to embrace these issues, but I’ve come to learn that there are many different ways of honoring the victims of the Holocaust and remembering them.
However you connect with the memory of the Holocaust, the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies hopes you have a meaningful Yom HaShoah. May we all be like the students of this program; honoring the victims of the Holocaust in their pursuits to make the world a better place.