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Summer – 2015: An Inspiring Holocaust Educators’ Seminar at Yad Vashem

By Marion Reiss

This summer I had the privilege of joining our Educational Director, Amy SaNogueira and Holocaust Educator Irit Bloomgarden in participating in an amazing seminar for Holocaust educators at the Yad Vashem International School of Education in Jerusalem, Israel. For nine full days, we attended lectures, workshops, seminars and explorations of artifacts at Yad Vashem, together with 32 other Holocaust educators from all over the United States, Toronto, Australia, and Ecuador. Our backgrounds ranged from teaching Holocaust studies, and guiding in Holocaust Museums, to developing core programs for educational institutions in community centers and synagogues. Our lead educator, Lea Roshkovsky, the Director of the World Jewry Division of the international School emphasized the Yad Vashem approach to Holocaust education as giving meaning to the events of the Holocaust. The way to accomplish this is to always start with the particular, the people, the families and communities, rather than with the big numbers and horrific images. It is important, she stressed, to always start with the life before the Holocaust, with all of its diversity. Since the seminar dealt with teaching the Holocaust to all ages, we explored ways teaching about the trauma without traumatizing our students. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by telling the individual stories before going to the larger picture. It is important to give a face to the story, not only to the victims but also to the perpetuators and the bystanders, and to analyze the choices that individuals had to make in every situation. The definition of “Holocaust “is not only the “final solution” but every step of dehumanization along the way.

I look forward to working this year with Amy and Irit to implement the skills and lessons we learned at Yad Vashem in our own Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance.

Marion Reiss has lived in Rockland County for over 50 years. She moved here with her husband Harry Reiss, of Blessed Memory, who was a founder of the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies, now known as the Holocaust Museum and Study Center.

They raised their three children in Rockland County.

Marion was a teacher of History at the Bronx High School of Science and an adjunct Professor of Sociology at Rockland Community College. She later became the College Counselor at LaGuardia High School of the Arts in New York City, where she still does college advisement on a part-time basis.

She has been active in many community projects including Girl Scouts, Hadassah, PTA, and the Ramapo Democratic Committee, of which she was co-chair; she now serves as Trustee of the Finkelstein Memorial Library in Spring Valley, as well as of the Holocaust Museum. She is also co-chair of the Town of Ramapo –Israel Twinning Committee , which organizes student exchange visits to sister cities, and plans an annual Jewish Heritage Night for the Town of Ramapo.

For the past fifteen years, Marion has been a Gallery Educator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York City.

She is the author of “Not To Forget: The Story of Harry Reiss and the Creation of the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies” and of numerous articles.