The CSULB Jewish Studies Program Meets Initiative to Endow Annual Eva and Eugene Schlesinger Teacher Workshop on the Holocaust

California State University, Long Beach’s Jewish Studies Program met its initiative to endow the annual Eva and Eugene Schlesinger Teacher Workshop on the Holocaust. This initiative began three years ago with a seed gift from local survivor Gerda Seifer who stressed the importance of local teachers learning how to teach students about the Holocaust. California mandates that teachers address the Holocaust in both history and language arts classes, but many teachers remain unprepared to do so. The Eva and Eugene Schlesinger Teacher Workshop is a one-week institute at CSULB featuring talks by noted Holocaust historians, presentations by teacher leaders, and many high-quality classroom resources focused on the history of the Holocaust. In addition to providing teachers with information about the historical context and major events of the Holocaust, the institute investigates how art was used as a tool of both perpetration and resistance. During a institute, the 25 participating teachers receive the ADL training manual Echoes and Reflections, hear lectures by leading experts in the field, and build lesson plans for their various classes.

Rather than wait for the completion of the endowment, the Jewish Studies Program held its first-annual workshop in August 2010 and its second in August 2011. Each workshop has a theme that allows the teachers to ask and explore in-depth questions about the Holocaust. The first workshop examined Children and the Holocaust; the second looked at Art and the Holocaust: Art as Perpetrator, Art as Resistance. The Jewish Studies Program is currently planning the third workshop for August 2012: Human Responses to the Holocaust —  Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders, and Deniers. At the August 2011 conference, the teachers visited the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and received training from the USC Shoah Foundation via their new online iWitness database of survivor testimonies. The Jewish Studies Program hopes to continue partnering with both institutions in the future. Participating teachers are eligible for service credit and receive a stipend.

The Jewish Studies Program thanks the Development staff in the Dean’s office for the long hours dedicated to completing the endowment. In particular, the Jewish Studies Program thanks the College of Liberal Arts’ Development Director Howie Fitzgerald, who attended countless meetings with donors, made endless phones calls, wrote hundreds of letters and emails, and developed the fundraising strategy that allowed the Jewish Studies Program to fulfill its five-year goal in just two and a half years. Jeff Blutinger, Director of the Jewish Studies Program and Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies, wrote, “This is really his [Fitzgerald’s] achievement.” Fitzgerald’s assistant Angela Perez deserves a lot of credit as well. She wrote several grant requests for this project and made numerous phone calls to potential donors. Moreover, Perez played a lead role in obtaining the final $100,000 gift from the Schlessingers. In addition, the Jewish Studies Program thanks Dave Neumann for his hard work in the California Social Sciences/History Project. In addition to organizing and facilitating the workshops, Neumann contacted local school systems and coordinated with participating teachers.

With the endowment, the Jewish Studies Program can hold the Eva and Eugene Schlesinger Teacher Workshop annually in perpetuity. The Jewish Studies Program looks forward to accomplishing the following goals: expanding the workshop to include one-day workshops during the academic year and eventually partnering with other Southern California organizations to offer training workshops tailored to particular interests. Howie and Angela are working on several grant requests to increase the Jewish Studies Program’s resources to meet these additional goals.

Training teachers is one of the founding missions of CSULB. These workshops, as well as the Jewish Studies Program’s new partnership with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, will help CSULB fulfill that mission and puts CSULB at the forefront of Holocaust education in Southern California.

Eugene and Eva Schlesinger

Compiled and edited by Cortney Smethurst