Grantee in the News | Feb 2024

CA Department of Education brings survivor testimony to Bay Area schools

Originally published in the Jewish News of Northern California

Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner (left) with California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond at an event at El Cerrito High School last month. (Photo/Courtesy California Department of Education)

More than 100 students in public high schools across West Contra Costa County took part in an inaugural, district-wide educational program last month, hearing powerful testimony from East Bay Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner.

Brinner’s appearance marked the launch of an oral history speaker series organized by the California Department of Education (CDE) that will continue at school districts across the state. The series aims to give students a deeper understanding of the Holocaust by allowing them to hear directly from survivors and their family members, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond told J.

“This is a great thing that serves many purposes and promotes awareness of the Holocaust,” Thurmond, who also co-chairs the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education, said in a phone interview. “It’s a great way to address and counter antisemitism. We think it’s an engaging way for students to learn about history.”

To prepare for last month’s event, the CDE partnered with the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center. Anita Friedman, executive director of JFCS and co-chair of the Governor’s Council, and Holocaust Center director Morgan Blum Schneider reviewed the materials to ensure they aligned with best practices for Holocaust education.

The JFCS Holocaust Center has committed itself to strengthening Holocaust learning in classrooms statewide. In 2022, it launched the California Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education.

Ultimately, the CDE hopes the series fosters cross-cultural exchanges among students of different backgrounds.

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