Front Range Community College, Longmont, CO – November 11, 2021

by George J Elbaum

Front Range Community College (FRCC) has a total enrollment exceeding 19,000 students of wide diversity: 62% are White, 23% are Latino, and 15% are of several other races or multi-racial.  Of the total, approximately 4900 students attend the Boulder County Campus at Longmont, and although many enroll right from high school, 24 is the median age because more than 40% of students are 26 years old or older.

My talk was organized by Mary Ann Grim of the History and Women & Gender Studies Faculty, as part of her Western Civilization class which includes 3 weeks on the Holocaust, reading of Survival in Auschwitz, etc.  An active Q&A session followed my talk.  My initial contact with Mary Ann Grim was made only a week ago by Kael Sagheer, Education Coordinator at the Institute for Holocaust Education, Omaha.

After my talk Mary Ann Grim sent me FRCC’s statement on its philosophy of inclusion, which I appreciate for its calm and even-handed description and feel it worthwhile to include below.

“We recognize that the success of students and employees grows from a culture of inclusivity, equity, and excellence. We believe that our diversity, which includes a full spectrum of attributes, backgrounds, cultures, identities, abilities, beliefs, and ideas, enriches lives in the entire college community. We know that including and respecting our diverse experiences and values in all of our interactions at the college is the best way to promote student success. We also recognize that our differences do not have equal impact or consequences, and we acknowledge that our differences affect how we behave, how we are treated, and how we interact.”

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Holocaust Center for Humanity, Student Leadership Board, Seattle, WA – November 3, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

The Holocaust Center for Humanity‘s (HCH) Student Leadership Board (SLB) began in 2016 as a way for students in the Seattle area to become engaged with HCH programs and its museum.  Today, the SLB is in its seventh year, and its members are in grades 7-12 from all over Washington State, working together using a hybrid model of Zoom and in-person meetings and events.  HCH staff members from the Center’s Education Department lead the group along with five 12th grade SLB Officers.  This school year, the SLB goals for its members are:

  • Enhance their historical understanding of the Holocaust
  • Feel empowered, supported, and comfortable assuming a leadership role amongst their peers
  • Be comfortable speaking out, i.e. be an upstander when witnessing a wrong occurring
  • Collaborate as part of a group or team
  • Be able to understand and make connections between the Holocaust, other historic injustices, and those going on today 

Projects and activities this year include learning stories of Holocaust Survivors and their descendants; exploring the history of antisemitism and how it appears today; establishing partnerships with other organizations like Jewish Family Service, etc; establishing awareness campaigns to educate others in their communities; and volunteering for Holocaust Center events.

My talk to the SLB today was organized by Julia Thompson, HCH Education Program Manager and assisted by Morgan Romero, Museum and Education Assistant. 

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Wenatchee High School, Wenatchee, WA – October 19, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Wenatchee High School (WHS) has an enrollment of 2019 students and high diversity: more than half of its students are of Latino or Hispanic descent, and the same ratio come from high poverty backgrounds.  Responding to these issues, WHS actively promotes inclusivity and provides its students with many opportunities to be involved in a wide variety of activities, ranging from equestrian competitions to robotics to mariachi.

The event was organized by Danielle Schafer-Cloke, WHS English Teacher and Varsity Cheerleading Head Coach, and my participation was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Program Manager, and Morgan Romero, Museum and Education Assistant, Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity.

(Awaiting more information on WHS and photos of this event)

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Harbour Pointe Middle School, Mukilteo, WA – June 11, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Harbour Pointe Middle School, Mukilteo, WA, is a public school with grades 6-8 and enrollment of 808 students with diverse demographics: White 48%, Asian 24%, Hispanic 12%, two or more races 11%, Black 4%.  The students’ academic performance is also quite impressive, with proficiency in English of 76% vs. state average of 61%, and in Math it is 68% vs. state average of 50%. 

My talk to a class of 30 8th graders was organized by ELA Core/Honors teacher Janine Schierbeek, who has taught the Holocaust for many years using the resources of the Holocaust Center for Humanity .  Her Holocaust teaching unit centers around literature circles/book groups, which this semester include Night, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Number the Stars, Berlin Boxing Club, and Once.  She has also done field trips, hosted speakers, and her students have participated in the Holocaust Center’s Zoom book group last year. 

My talk was arranged by the Holocaust Center’s Education Program Manager Julia Thompson, and the Zoom and PowerPoint “technology” of my talk were ably managed by the Center’s Morgan Romero, Museum and Education Assistant.

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Boston Green Academy, Brighton, MA – May 27, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Boston Green Academy (BGA) is an ‘in-district’ Charter School that is proudly part of the Boston Public Schools.  Founded in 2011 by a committed group of Boston educators and community members, BGA is Boston’s only school focused on sustainability and preparing the next generation of diverse leaders for college and green careers.

Asked by the Boston Public Schools to turn around a struggling high school, BGA successfully ‘re-started’ Odyssey High School in South Boston and in three years became the most improved high school in the Boston Public Schools and one of the most improved state-wide. In 2014, BGA began an expansion to include middle grades, starting with a 6th grade and in 2017 BGA achieved its goal of becoming a full school for grades 6-12 serving approximately 500 students from every neighborhood and background in Boston. BGA continues to be one of the most improved and innovative schools in the Boston Public Schools, serving a highly diverse student body with “90% Students of Color, 31% Students with Disabilities, 15% English Language Learners, 100% Amazing Human Beings!”

To fulfill the “Green” in its name, BGA prepares all its students to be leaders in environmental stewardship and activism, to live their lives responsibly and sustainably, and to be prepared to succeed in the growing green sector.  The “Green” theme is woven into all courses through BGA’s project-based learning, an Environmental Science Career Technical Education (CTE) Program open to all students, and a Project Week experiential learning program every year, including international service learning trip for high school students.  BGA’s graduation requirements exceed Boston Public Schools standards, including a required senior six-week internship for all seniors. My presentation to 55 11th graders (and some 8th graders) was organized by BGA Humanities teacher Lucia Mandelbaum and it was arranged by Jeff Smith, Resource Speaker Coordinator, Facing History and Ourselves

Student Reflections

Several days after my talk at BGA I received from teacher Lucia Mandelbaum a compilation of student reflections from all of her classes (students with disabilities, English language learners, inclusion, AP cohort).  It was a part of her “Thank You” to everyone who helped organize this event at BGA.  As with student letters & notes received from other schools, I now excerpted statements that resonated with me from these Student Reflections and added these excerpts to BGA’s webpost on my website

  • Pretty much the whole entire experience stayed with me.  I automatically send a message to my old middle school teacher after the experience telling him about it.  He said it was a great experience for me and it actually inspired him to start writing again.
  • The excitement of talking to George Elbaum, his talk was so interesting.  He has amazing stories, they’re not all good stories, but they’re all very interesting. He could turn any question into a good story, when he didn’t have an answer for the question he answered with something that related to it.
  • It was cool hearing from someone who is still here from a traumatizing past and speaking about it.  It’s very brave to do that.  When he was talking about his mom and how she passed, that really hit home, and I noticed when he was talking about her, that he was about to cry, and it was very sad.
  • Something that stuck with me is when he said that he felt like an American, not a Jew.
  • He was truly an inspiration, a living example of no excuses, a fighter, a survivor, and even the luckiest man on earth.  His story is crazy and hard to even imagine the risks he and his mother took all their life. 
  • I would like to speak with him again and ask him more questions personally, like what kept him with hope all those years.  The things he told us yesterday are not even believable and make a kid like me think I could really do anything.
  • The thing that has stayed with me is the profound effect that the Holocaust had on George’s entire character.
  • I thought it was inspirational, especially at the end when George talked about the girl who contemplated suicide.
  • What stayed with me during the Elbaum interview was how lucky he had been through that whole ordeal.
  • I have a lot of respect for Elbaum because of the things he has gone through.  He answered all of my questions.
  • He made me want to keep going even though I have hard times, because he went through worse than me and still kept going.
  • What stayed with me was how strong his mother was through the process.
  • What stayed with me the most was the sugar cube story he told.  It was really unique and cool for him to share.  It was one of the few highs of such a sad experience.  Also how he changed a girl’s mind about planning to kill herself.  We never really know how much of an impact we have on someone’s life.
  • Yesterday’s talk with George Elbaum was pretty inspiring and interesting because he is history itself and we get to know things that happened to him first hand basically. What has stayed with me is the experience he had in the shed, when the dog had to be choked so it wouldn’t have barked for their safety. What I want to know more about are other precautions that he had to take to be safe.
  • It was terrible as a child to see the events that went on and experience the sacrifices that his mother went through to keep him safe and provide him a fresh start in life.
  • What has stayed with me is his voice when he was talking, you could hear it in his voice about the pain he was feeling.
  • Yesterday’s talk with George Elbaum is going to be memorable.  Something that surprised me was how much luck he had, like God was always on his side
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Inglewood Middle School, Sammamish, WA – May 25, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Inglewood Middle School is a public school with 1258 students in grades 6-8 and holds a very good 9/10 overall rating from Great  Especially impressive is its 10/10 rating for the test scores of its students’ proficiency:  86% vs 50% State avg in math, and 88% vs 61% State avg in English.  The student body is diverse: 58% White, 28% Asian, 7% two or more races, 6% Hispanic, and 1% Black.

8th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies teachers Maria Fyles and Andrew Gustav organized this educational speaking event consisting of 3 consecutive presentations by 3 different Holocaust speakers to 3 large groups of 8th graders (approx. 300 total), some physically in classrooms and some via Teams.  Supporting the presentations as related to their concurrent teaching model were Inglewood 8th grade LASS teachers, Caroline Freidenfelt, Amy Jones, Gretchen Mason, Mary Olson, and Kacie Simpson.  All teachers have been using materials from the Holocaust Center for Humanity and Echoes and Reflections curricula to study the Holocaust in the context of their WWII Unit with connection to United States and Washington State History. Teachers and students were able to connect a historical event to their local community through the speaker narratives from the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

I made the 3rd of the 3 consecutive presentations, and speakers for all 3 presentations were arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Program Manager of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

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Navy Operational Support Center, Omaha, NE – May 15, 2021 via video

George J Elbaum

Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Omaha is a small group of 14 active duty staff members located at the Offutt Air Force Base whose mission is to assist and support the nearly 250 Naval Reservists in the area.  Having recently established a diversity program, its Department Head and Diversity Coordinator, ITSN Collin Phillips, contacted Omaha’s Institute for Holocaust Education (IHE) for an educational speaker about the Holocaust for Armed Forces Day, May 15.  IHE’s Education Coordinator, Kael Sagheer, recommended me and put us in contact with each other.  Collin explained to me his plan to broadcast my presentation via the Navy’s secure version of Zoom/Skype so that every member of the Navy’s local community would be able to tune in, as well as their families.  After overcoming some technical issues, my presentation today was seen by 2 dozen viewers and recorded for later viewing by the broader local community of Navy personnel.

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Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School, South Easton, MA – May 10, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School  (Southeastern) is a public high school with a high diversity enrollment of 1,416 students in grades 9-12 offering a diverse range of educational, vocational and technical programs.  The school’s multi-pronged education takes a hands-on approach to learning, integrating academic course work with vocational and technical education.  This approach  has  proven to be successful in educating today’s youth for tomorrow’s challenges in an environment that teaches through example.

Southeastern’s offerings are divided into Academic and Vocational/Technical Programs.  The academic program offers a full and rigorous series of academic classes which are kept small to foster critical thinking and exposure to honors-level content.  Academics in a 21st century vocational school are developed to ensure that students have equal opportunities for college and career success. Such offerings include AP courses, honors level courses, dual enrollment courses and virtual high school courses.

The vocational/technical program offers a choice of 22 specialized vocational courses to prepare its students in a wide variety of professions, ranging from Advanced Manufacturing & Welding to Video & Performing Arts; from Automotive Technology to Dental and Medical and Nurse Assisting; from Computer & Electronic Engineering to Natural & Life Sciences; and from Cosmetology and Culinary Arts to Marketing & Entrepreneurship – a truly wide choice for students.

Last year I visited Southeastern (2-27-2020) and spoke to 12th graders taking a year-long class of Facing History – Holocaust and Human Behavior taught by Social Studies teacher Amy McLaughlin-Hatch, who expertly organized my presentation.  Her students had been learning about the Holocaust for 6 months and thus had a background based on Facing History pedagogy plus material from Echoes & Reflections, Yad Vashem, USHMM and many other resources.  However, a week after that visit Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown occurred, and since then education has mostly shifted online, making it especially demanding on dedicated teachers such as Amy, even with her impressive credentials (recipient of Facing History MSS & TOLI Grants, Yad Vashem Int’l & Upstander Academy Educator, USHMM Scholar). My presentation today was therefore entirely online via Zoom, with part of the class in a classroom and part at home.   

I asked Amy for her thoughts on the difficulties in teaching about the Holocaust resulting from Covid, and she replied: “Covid has impacted education in so many ways, too many to count. Southeastern students participated in all modes of teaching this year including remote learning, Zoom classes, hybrid learning, asynchronous teaching, synchronous teaching, Google classroom, and so much more.  But thankfully, due to Facing History and survivors willing to share their stories and make history come alive, our Holocaust speaker talks continued and students have benefited.” 

Arrangements for my talk were again made by Jeff Smith of Facing History and Ourselves, whose presence and pre-and-post-talk conversation always add much to my gratification.

Letters from Students

Two weeks after our May 10 session I received two dozen letters from students at that session plus a truly touching Thank You note from teacher Amy McLaughlin.  As the day of my talk was a subsequently announced Senior Skip Day, half of the students’ letters apologized for not attending my talk, and some had a humorous reference to it.  I read all letters, excerpted statements that resonated or amused me, and the resulting excerpts are given below.

  • I may not be able to understand or feel what you went through during these events but I appreciate you bringing awareness to the racism that is still happening in this world.  I thank you for your contributions, time, and efforts.
  • You have inspired me to go to college, because you worked hard until you reached your goal and that is exactly what I want to do.
  • Though I did not get to hear your story, I admire you for sharing a story that was probably a very hard part of your life.
  • The people that surround me are blinded by what they have.  They take a lot of things for granted, like food & clothing, things that didn’t come easy to you.  When you talk to the next class please remind them of all the hidden blessings they have.
  • I could only imagine the pain and regret that your family must have felt.  After hearing your story I’m going to start taking an interest in the past.  Learning about the experiences and problems people face helps me widen my view of what causes thing to happen and how people handle it.  Your story will stick with me for many years to come.
  • I’ve lived through some hardships myself and was once also separate from my mother.  I also deal with various health issues such as Type 1 diabetes, heart murmur, etc., but despite going through everything I tend to go to school each and every day, help my father, take care of my little sisters, go to work five days each week, and much more.  I remain motivated because of my two little sisters, one is 14 and transgender and one is 8 and extremely sassy, but I love them more than life itself. 
  • Thank you for acting as an inspiration and sharing your story.
  • I want to apologize for missing you talk because I participated in Senior Skip Day instead.  I wanted to take the chance I had to do something ”normal” for my senior year.
  • Thank you for taking your time and energy to share your experience with us.  It was definitely worth skipping Senior Skip Day for it.
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San Mateo County Library, San Mateo, CA – May 5, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

San Mateo County Library’s activities and educational services have been necessarily curtailed by the Covid pandemic.  To compensate for this, Julie Smith, Librarian at the Half Moon Bay branch of SMCL, took the initiative and organized a presentation about the Holocaust for seven schools in the county, including Half Moon Bay High School, Cunha Intermediate School, Pescadero High School, Woodland Middle School, Woodside High School, Ingrid B. Lacy Middle School, and Ocean Shore School.  Approximately 300 students participated, some of these having studied the rise of Hitler, the Nuremberg Laws, Kristallnacht, The Diary of Ann Frank, the Ghettos, Concentration Camps, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Elie Wiesel’s Night.

My presentation was arranged by Penny Savryn, Education & Marketing Manager of JFCS Holocaust Center.

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Methuen High School, Methuen, MA – May 4, 2021 via video

by George J Elbaum

Methuen High School (MHS) is a public secondary school serving grades 9-12.  It has an enrollment of 1950, of which 46% is minority and 47% from low-income families.  The Holocaust is taught at MHS as part of English Department studies by teacher Jackie Rubino, who organized my presentation at MHS and uses educational materials from Facing History and Ourselves and other sources..  This was my 2nd visit to MHS, andapproximately 80 of MHS’s 9th grade students were on today’s presentation via Zoom. As last year, the students have already studied much of the Holocaust and Human Behavior book from Facing History, “Schindler’s List,” selections from the The World Must Know, Night by Elie Wiesel, plus   supplemental materials

In the 10 years of presentations I have noticed that the quality of students’ questions during the Q&A much depends on the quality of student preparation, and thus the quality of teaching.  Enthusiastic teachers such as Jackie Rubino result in enthusiastic students, and that resulted in our Q&A lasting another half hours after my almost an hour presentation.  As last year, I was again pleasantly surprised by the quality of the students’ questions, and some of their most thoughtful ones about my feelings, hopes, and concerns during the Holocaust had been asked of me only once or twice in the almost 300 talks I have given to date.  I’ve long felt that the Q&A is often the most important part of my talks because it represents our 2-way communication, and I was very pleased and moved by today’s session.

In addition to Jackie Rubino, attending the presentation (by Zoom) were MHS teachers and staff, including Dr. Lisa Golobski-Twomey, MHS English department head, Kara Brooks, English teacher, and Jason Smith, science teacher. My participation was arranged by Jeff Smith of Facing History.

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