By Richard Westlund
Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 11, 2015) —Seventy years after World War II ended, anti-Semitism remains a serious problem in Europe. But unlike the dark days of Nazi Germany, hate crimes against Jews draw immediate condemnation, according to one of the nation’s leading Holocaust scholars.
“The response to anti-Semitic violence in France, Denmark, Germany, and other nations has been overwhelming support and sympathy for the Jews,” said Michael Berenbaum, founding project director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., at the 2015 Holocaust Studies Summer Institute, held June 8-12 at Storer Auditorium. “Today’s anti-Semitism is a very serious problem, but it is a different phenomenon than the Holocaust.”
More than 70 Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers attended the professional development program, which was sponsored by the School of Education and Human Development, with support from the School of Business Administration, the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, and WLRN Public Radio and Television for South Florida.
“Our teachers benefit from gaining new information and access to new resources, so they can develop their lesson plans and teach the Holocaust properly in keeping with the state mandate,” said Miriam Klein Kassenoff, the institute director and district education specialist with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “We have teachers who come back year after year to learn from our extraordinary speakers.”
One returning attendee was Jennifer Levinson, a media specialist at Norman S. Edelcup Sunny Isles Beach K-8. “This program brings in top scholars who share their findings with us,” she said. “In turn, we pass that information on to other teachers. The session on using the Internet for Holocaust studies was particularly helpful in that regard.”
Institute participants also heard firsthand testimony from Holocaust survivors, including Kassenoff, who escaped as a child. Berenbaum also narrated the horrifying testimony of Rudolf Reder, who was one of only two people to survive the Belzec death camp where 500,000 to 600,000 Jews perished.
In his talk on the “Stages to Auschwitz”—the steps that led to the genocide, Berenbaum discussed the moral courage that many Jews displayed, even when knowing their fate. He also talked about how a few Jews were able to “hide in plain sight” while living in German-occupied Europe. “One woman learned to laugh out loud in crowds, because someone who was Jewish would never call attention to themselves,” he said. “She instinctively used reverse psychology in order to survive.”