Madene Shachar, who made Aliya to Israel from the United States in 1983, holds a B.Ed in Early Childhood Education from Oranim Teaching College and a BA in Education from the University of Haifa. An educator for almost 20 years, Madene joined the Ghetto Fighters’ House staff in 2000. Over the past thirteen years she has worked as a guide in the children’s memorial museum, Yad Layeled, as well as the history museum and was the Israeli coordinator of the on-line International Book Sharing Project. She is also in charge of the social media networks of the museum, including the website and Facebook page. In a joint project with the Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum in NYC, Madene was co-writer of six Israel-based biographies in the Coming of Age during the Holocaust: Coming of Age Now (2008) educational program. In 2012, she co-authored an article for Social and Educational History entitled The Role of Experiential Learning in Holocaust Education. Today, Madene shares with us her thoughts on being a professional in the field of Holocaust education while simultaneously expanding her credentials as a student in our program:
Many people consider academia as the “ivory tower” where professors and students spend their lives sitting in remote university classrooms, libraries and laboratories, writing articles, giving lectures and sitting high above the rest of the world. Those who pursue an academic career are choosing a profession that is actually detached from the real world with not practical applications. For me, being a student in the Weiss–Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies and an educator at the Ghetto Fighters’ House has given me the opportunity to integrate both my academic and work interests. And though, as an upcoming scholar, who spends many hours a day and most of her weekends sitting in the Ivory Tower, I have to admit that this past year has given me more practical experience than one would expect.
An example of this “theory meets practice” is my trip to Germany this past April. I was part of a delegation of museum educators from the Ghetto Fighters’ House who traveled to Bergen Belsen. We met with a group of young educators who guide at the memorial site in order to learn about Holocaust education and remembrance at an authentic site. This summer, the German educators will spend a week at the Ghetto Fighters’ House to learn about the museum’s history and educational programs.
When visiting the memorial site, I brought with me my history lessons with Raz Segal and Dr. David Silberklang, who taught me about the history of WWII and the Final Solution, the camp system and Nazi Germany. As well, I also had the background on Holocaust remembrance and museums with the help of my Anthropology of Memory class with Dr. Carol Kidron and my Holocaust Museums class with Shosh Rotem. Through their lectures, presentations, and the many assigned readings, my teachers equipped me with the tools to experience my visit to the fullest, to connect through multiple perspectives, to take in the nuances, to ask the difficult questions, and even start the groundwork for future research.
In light of the latest ADL statistics that show that over 54% of the world does not know about the Holocaust and in many countries more people believe one of the most tragic historical events of the 20th century was a myth or did not happen, there is no doubt that the Ivory Tower has to be not only a place to gain perspective, but also a conduit through which the practical applications for change and betterment can be disseminated.
The true purpose of pursuing a higher education, in my opinion, is to make a difference in concrete and practical ways. This is especially true for those of us who want to work in the field of Holocaust research or education. Though sitting in the Ivory Tower has given me a much broader knowledge base concerning the Holocaust, it is my responsibility to pass this knowledge on and to find the practical venues through which Holocaust studies can remain relevant.