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How Young is Too Young?

5/19/14

By Susie Tessel 

Yom HaShoah has come and gone. Should The Holocaust be a subject taught once a year?

The survivors are elderly and dying. Soon they will not be able to offer a living testimony. The Jewish people must ensure that The Holocaust is taught in a thoughtful, age appropriate yet meaningful way. But, we do not want our students to become inured or worse traumatized by the subject of The Holocaust and the atrocities committed. What do we do?

What is the best age to begin teaching about The Holocaust? The pendulum has swung again and again as to what age is developmentally appropriate to begin broaching this subject. How should it be confronted? Directly or indirectly? Now, The Ministry of Education in Jerusalem has decided that we cannot start too early. The department of education at Yad Vashem has received a million dollar grant to develop a spiral curriculum starting with kindergarten and continuing through high school and beyond. Yad Vashem does not use allegories or parables. They insist on describing real events that happened to real people, in many different countries and continents. They also do not want The Holocaust to be talked about only once a year on Yom HaShoah. Rather, they want it woven into the fiber and identity of every Jew. The Education ministry said that “The education system is working to educated children starting from a young age about the legacy of the nation, its history and culture, and about her holidays and memorial days, as an integral part of the educational experience. “ They state clearly that they discourage teachers from showing students archival photographs from the Holocaust. I am very interested to explore their approach to the subject for young children, and to see if it is readily adaptable to our children. Many of their existing materials are adaptable and useful to use year round. Read the full article here.

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