Yad Vashem Seminar: Insider Look at the First Day

Seminar at Yad Vashem


 The members of the fourth cohort highly anticipated our trip to Jerusalem for the four-day seminar at Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is a world-renowned research institution and museum, and its partnership with the University of Haifa is of particular benefit to the students in the program. The four-day seminar was meaningful and educational. Read on for a break down of the first impactful day!

Day 1: Introduction & Emphasis on the International School & Holocaust Education

After an introduction on the history of Yad Vashem and how the emphasis of the institution has changed over time by Professor Dan Michman, the head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, we heard from three fascinating speakers who focused on various education topics connected to the Holocaust. Dr. Naama Shik, the Director of the International School, spoke about utilizing technology and massive online open courses to spread Holocaust education to a wider audience. Dr. Shik addressed the benefits and challenges of online courses such as using the courses as a platform to access material from the archives, the challenge of learners’ shortened attention spans and how to transmit knowledge effectively.  She also discussed the issue of crowd sourcing – balancing when to delete incendiary or political comments.


Shani Lurie spoke about the educational philosophy of the International school and all the former and our aspiring educators found her presentation fascinating. Her presentation was very interactive – Ms. Lurie opened by showing students a few pictures and asking them to choose which one they would use to teach about the Holocaust if they could only select one. Ms. Lurie then segued into the goals of teaching about the Holocaust and how the resources utilized should should relate to those goals. Ms. Lurie discussed using questions to engage students and make the topic significant for them. Yad Vashem’s educational philosophy is to focus on the Jewish victims including their life before the War, life during the Shoah, and returning to life after the War ended. Notice the focus on life! Ms. Lurie explained that Yad Vashem doesn’t focus on death because we can’t learn anything from that.


The final speaker of the day was Shlomit Steiner who works in the Teacher’s Training Department. She explored a poignant children’s book written by Bedrich Fritta for his son Tommy on his third birthday in Terezin Ghetto. The book is used by many Israeli teachers to teach the Holocaust to younger students in the primary grades. The book has beautiful drawings yet contains hints of the deprived life of the Frittas in Terezin.  It depicts the father’s fear that he may not live to see his child reach adulthood which can be seen in the many pages devoted to food and those that wonder what Tommy will be when he grows up and who he will marry. Bedrich Fritta created other drawings that depicted the true condition of the Jews in Terezin, and for that he was sent to Auschwitz and murdered. Ms. Steiner showed students some of those drawings and it was startling to compare them to the whimsical and happy drawings in the book for his son. That the same person could draw such drastically different images at the same time is a testament to the human spirit and a father’s love for his child.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website:


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