For 13 years the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a now-independent organization, has provided moral and financial support to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
As the generation of rescuers passes away, the foundation faces the problem of how to continue to honor their memory.
Its solution: education.
JFR, formerly known as the Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers, has spent nearly three years developing a teacher education project geared for Holocaust classes in public schools, with an emphasis on the actions of heroic Christians and Muslims.
“When the rescuers are no longer with us, their legacy will be sustained through the JFR’s national teacher educational program,” said Paul Goldberger, chairman-elect for the foundation, which was founded by Rabbi Harold Schulweis in Encino, Calif., and until 1996 affiliated with the Anti-Defamation League.
The first part, a teacher’s resource of more than 700 pages, will be ready for distribution this spring, said JFR education director David Weinstein. The two other parts, a teacher’s guide and student reader, will be ready later in the year.
The educational program is designed to complement Holocaust material offered by other Jewish organizations, Weinstein said.
“It’s become a very popular subject” in American public schools, he said.
Holocaust education is mandated in five states and recommended in 13 others. Several school systems have indicated a strong interest in the program, Weinstein said.
The teacher’s resource for middle schools and high schools, a 10-chapter collection of annotated documents and primary source material from Holocaust survivors and experts, was compiled by Professor Deborah Dwork, director of Holocaust studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
“Our feeling is teachers should read original scholarship, not just books” in which vital documents appear as secondary source research, Weinstein said.
With the input of teachers, he is compiling the two other parts of the educational program. It has taken two years just to obtain the needed copyrights.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Weinstein, a former high-school history teacher in New Jersey.
“Teachers themselves” — his former colleagues — “don’t know enough history,” he said. “We see [the program] as the course on the Holocaust the teachers never had.”
The program also will include teachers’ training conferences, “partnerships” with U.S. Holocaust centers, seminars in Poland and Germany, a newsletter and a Web site.
Though covering a wide spectrum of Shoah-related topics, the JFR program will devote a special focus on wartime rescuers, Weinstein said. “The issue of rescuers and righteousness is often not given attention in education.”
The program will offer a balance to the concentration on Nazi evils found in much literature about the era. “There is the evil that young people need to recognize. There also has to be a recognition to recognize the goodness,” he said.
Weinstein says his goal is educational material he could have used when he was teaching about the Holocaust.
“It would be incredibly valuable to me,” he said.