Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Teachers on a Journey Podcast

Hello to everyone who faithfully follows this blog. I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season and hope all of you enjoy the well deserved seasonal break. Sondra and several others from past Holocaust seminars had the opportunity to share about our personal stories regarding how the seminar has impacted our lives both personally and in our classrooms on a weekly program titled Teachers Teaching Teachers. I know, for me, it proved to be a wonderful experience. We had some technical glitches at the beginning and the end, but in between we engaged in some meaningful dialogue you may be interested in. I have also included a link to the collaborative blog Danielle and I refer to in the podcast.

Just click on the provided links and enjoy.

Teachers Teaching Teachers #133 - Holocaust Educators Network: Teachers on a Journey - 12.17.08

Breaking Down Barriers Blog

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I can't forget it

I was writing with my students this week, using different poetry prompts. One of the activities that we did (using photos as prompts) I stole from another TC from the OWP and used it with a photo from this summer's institute that I just got around to printing. Below is the picture, and then the poem.

New York: 2008

We were talking about languages.
Jennifer minored in French in college,
but has since lost most of it.
I was newly inspired to learn Spanish,
and dig back into my Greek and Hebrew,
loving the moments on the subway
when I heard absolutely no English spoken-
instead hearing everything from Spanish and Arabic
to Korean and (obscure to me) eastern European.

We were walking over the Brooklyn Bridge,
a small group of students beginning a tour
given by the (unrepresented) native of our group–Alice.
In the previous ten days of study
I had fallen in love with these people;
I would walk to the ends of the earth for them,
and, after learning my lesson,
gladly wait on them too.

We each carried bags.
Mine, hanging off to the side
because I was already sweating
beyond my own comfort level.
Gatsinzi’s bag looks huge, but was in fact empty,
waiting to be stuffed with souvenirs.
(I don’t remember if it ever was).
Jennifer, the consummate pro,
was like a hiker going ultralight
with that sad excuse for a bag
swaying at her side.

We could have all learned a thing or two from her,
and, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we all did.

Thank you all for some great memories, and inspiration to write. Jennifer and Gatsinzi, I hope I remember things correctly.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Risha's project

All of us at the Library are very gratified at the work you are all doing in teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. Ellen and I are planning to attend Risha's project in Mt. Sterling KY on December 12 when she will have Irving Roth speak to the school and the students will participate in a Shabat dinner. I will post my observations and thoughts upon my return to New York.

Don't forget that we have mini grants available for your Holocaust projects. Contact Sondra or Jennifer with your requests.

We hope to attend the meeting at Philadelphia next year.

Happy holidays to all.

Best wishes.

David A. Field

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NWP Conference

About half our group made it to the conference in San Antonio and it was like seeing my family. Those of you who couldn't make it, we missed you! Sonya and Jennifer held on session on the Holocaust Education program. They showed the video they made in 2007, which was very much like ours. Gatsinzi talked about the changes he has gone through since the program. I will let him address this, but his talk was electric. We also met and heard from Diane, from the 2007 program, and viewed a video she made about her incredible middle school students and their reaction to "Sunflower," and their action in response. This should be posted on the NWP site soon, I am told. Everyone seems to have done amazing things as a result of our NY experience. I am so proud to be a part of this group, and humbled at the same time. I hope Risha will share some of her achievements, as well as some of her trials.

Budget cuts are threatening to curtail some of the work we do at my school, and I fear the same is happening everywhere. I guess we will have to become more creative in finding funding and resources to support our students.

I was glad to see everyone and hope we can all get together soon. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Healing and Rebuilding Lives After Genocide"

That was the subtitle of the event I attended last night at the local Gillioz Theatre. The title of the headlining film was ICYIZERE:hope; a documentary, filmed by a Kenyan native transplanted to Springfield, telling the story of a three day workshop that took place in Rwanda. The workshop brought together 10 perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide and 10 survivors, working through various emotional responses to their tragic history. One of the major themes that came up among both perpetrators and survivors was fear and mourning. Rarely did I ever shed a tear in our study while in New York, but watching a young man confess his sadness over mourning the loss of his mother, father, sister and brother, I broke down (ugly style). This young man was jealous of his classmates, knowing that when they fretted over taking home bad grades to their parents he could not have the same fear; instead he had to go home to no one, no scolding or fear of a reprimand for a low mark. This element of genocide, this absolute destruction of the family, is what is most gut-wrenching for me. And nothing else can communicate this as well as personal stories.

The filmmaker has shown the film at the Rwanda Film Festival, over Rwandan television, and at Gisenyi Central Prison (where one of the perpetrators who attended the workshop was imprisoned for his crimes during the genocide), all with the hope that more people will become aware of these workshops and these opportunities to come together, to break down barriers, and to work toward a future of hope.

The final moving portion of the documentary shows groups of perpetrators and survivors working together to identify the “roots” or actions, and the “fruit” or results of the actions. So often, many of the group presenters kept repeating the term Icyizere, which means hope, and, at least for me, knowing the one term and knowing what they were doing-identifying actions that would lead to hope for them as individuals and communities-was like a wave of hope for me. I know that may sound weird, and I don’t think I did a good job of describing it, but I guess it was my purely emotional response to the presentation.

At the end of the night, there was a question and answer period, and the filmmaker brought up many of the same issues that Gatsinzi did in his presentation, especially laying the groundwork for the Rwandan genocide. I was like an excited student with the right answers, able to connect the dots between the causes. For that, I must say thank you to Gatsinzi, for sharing the history with us. And again, I feel like I should thank Sondra and Jennifer and Alice and David and Ellen and Mark and Carole for allowing me to participate in one of the greatest experiences of my life. I left a local pub to go to the theater, and normally I would not have done that, but I know that the time spent together in New York has left such an impression on me that I’m moved to participate in these educational community gatherings. I feel like it’s these little things that can bring us together, and that in the end will keep us together.

To finish on a lighter note, and to add a bit more personal humor to the blog, I've included a school picture from the last day of soccer season. It was the Friday of Spirit Week, and it was "Nerd Day," so I just dressed up like myself, but added the hat and tape on my glasses. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Identity Boxes

Hi Everyone,

I am constantly amazed as I teach the Holocaust to one of my classes. The students in this class seem to look forward to the activities we do. This is the third year I have taught the class, but the first year we have studied the Holocaust. As my students drafted posts and comments for the blog discussion of Night we are having with Danielle's class in McCool Jct., I decided to clean up my work area. In doing so, I discovered the identity box created in NY this past summer. I remembered the fun I had creating and sharing my box with my fellow participants. I debated whether or not to do the activity in my class, but chose not to as of yet because I did not have any scrap fabric or glittery craft supplies, and acquiring them, in my chauvinistic opinion, is a slightly effeminate activity. :D Maybe I might find a huge box of fabric in a garage or rummage sale, but until then identity boxes were on hold.
I decided to save my identity box in a locked cabinet as an example for a later time, but as I passed by my tables of students to put the box away, one of them pointed to my yellow, sunflower adorned box and asked me about it. I started to explain what my identity box represented, and two things happened. For some strange reason I started to be overcome by emotion, and my students all stopped their discussion and listened as I told them about each item on my identity box. Before long, there were multiple requests, "Can we make one?" I mentioned my problem with the lack of cloth fabric, and before I knew it, two students volunteered to bring some the next day we met as a class. So, all I need to do now is go to the craft store and get some other supplies, which only requires a little bit of cash and my ability to overcome my masculine pride and tap into the other side of my brain. :D
I am excited to see what they create.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blogging Tutorials

I put together some blogging tutorials for a professional development day conference presentation. One presentation is for beginners and covers how to create a blog, post, and make comments. The second one is for more advanced bloggers and shows step by step how to insert pictures, create and embed slideshows, and embed video into a blog post. I hope all is well for everyone. I'm not even sure if anyone is monitoring the blog anymore. If your out there, say hello via a comment.
To Blog or Not to Blog_ Blogging for Beginners

A Blog a Blog a Kingdom for a Blog_ Advanced Blogging

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blogging Demonstration

Hi Everyone!
I am presenting at a writing project Saturday Seminar tomorrow morning. I thought I would share my demonstration with you. I hope all is well. I hope to find time now to post my piece for the list serve for The Sunflower. Click on the box in the upper right hand corner of the Scribd window to enlarge the demo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Teacher Seminar on the Holocaust

Hi everyone: I have really enjoyed hearing from everyone on both the Blog site and on the NWP listserv. It is exciting to hear about all of the great things you have been doing this fall!

I have been given an opportunity to present a seminar this coming Monday (October 13th) to the teachers of our entire Diocese on the Holocaust at our annual Diocesan Teacher Institute. I am looking forward to sharing many of the ideas and resources I gained from our experience this summer with the teachers from all over the Southern half of Nebraska in our Catholic schools. I plan to present resources, my lesson plan and ideas that I got from all of you, as well as conducting an open forum with the teachers to share ideas on effective ways to teach the Holocaust to Junior High and High School classes.

I hope I can represent all of you and the Summer Seminar well and will report back to you next week with results of the day.

Tom Seib

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Roswell Reads "Night"

We have been busy in Roswell--no not spending the $200 million Powerball jackpot, although I do know the winners--but kicking off a month-long program called "Roswell Reads." It is based on "The Big Read" program, but allows us to select a book. Melissa Jones Witt, also from Roswell and who went through our program last year, is the leading oar and I am the number 2 person in this effort. We chose "Night" as the book and we have received several grants, including one from the National Endowment for the Humanities and one from the Memorial Library. We purchased several hundred copies of "Night," which we are giving out to teachers and other members of the community, with the idea that everyone in Roswell will read the book together and talk about it. (I actually got my husband to read it!) This past week we had our opening event at the Civic Center. Dr. Burroughs, a Presbyterian minister, gave a brief overview of Jewish history, I talked about modern Jewish culture, both before and after the Holocaust, and Dr. Witt, a humanities professor, talked about the book. This week (and this is the best and most unbelievable part!) I am going to Albuquerque to pick up a gentleman named Werner Gellert, a survivor, who is going to spend 5 days here. He will speak to the community Tuesday night, will come to my classroom on Wednesday (this is what I thought would never happen), and will help our local synagogue celebrate Yom Kippur. On Friday, our very tiny synagogue is opening its doors to the public for Shabbat services--the idea coming from our wonderful experience, and Mr. Gellert will take the lead in this service, as we do not have a rabbi in Roswell. On Saturday the 11th, Melissa and I are going to conduct a workshop for teachers on teaching the Holocaust in the morning and a Writing Project-style event for students in the afternoon. On the 22nd, students will showcase their works to the public. We have so many ideas and so much material to share with the community, teachers and students, that it is overwhelming.

I have to say that as I sat in the Library in July and thought about our charge to bring this back to our community, I did not think I could do it. Where would I find a survivor to come to Roswell? How could I do more than teach my own classes? Who would work with me? Melissa and the High Plains Writing Project have make something happen that I could not have imagined. As I think we all find, there is a lot of interest in this subject out there, but not a lot of knowledge and understanding. I will report back on our adventures soon.

And I am certainly going to look at the student Night blog that Larry and Danielle have, and if it's okay with them, we might share this with our Roswell teachers next week.

Miss you all-

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blog Crazy

If you'd like to see what our students are saying about Night and other issues, visit

~Danielle & Larry

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who would have guessed!

Last week I attended an educator's conference sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a local college. If nothing else I was at least hoping to "network" with other teachers. As the English department at my school, I find these types of occasions stimulating and refreshing. Despite the fact that much of the information was a repeat at this particular conference, overall it was even better than I expected. Who would have guessed that Nebraska has a Holocaust Educators Consortium? Not me. I met other teachers from the "more populated" areas of the state that are Fellows of the USHMM and have the same passion for teaching the Holocaust as I do. Also, a local college professor is planning to host a summer rural institute for the Nebraska Writing Project and she asked me to co-facilitate it. We are going to have a dual focus of place based education linked with Holocaust/humanitarian education. It's really exciting and I'm still floored that I didn't know about all of this before last week!

One of the greatest parts was meeting another Holocaust survivor...from Omaha. Her name is Bea Karp and her story, like all the others, was amazing and emotional. The Holocaust Educators Consortium and the Anti-Defamation League of Omaha are going to be in contact with me about having a local survivor and other experts on teaching Judaism visit our school. Even though this conference wasn't connected to our summer seminar, it definitely was the catalyst for these opportunities.
Holocaust Survivor, Bea Karp

This upcoming week will be exciting, too. Larry and I are going to begin the blog shared between our students. They'll be discussing Night and other issues such as identity. We (and our students) are really looking forward to this new adventure! We'll be sure to give you all the address so you can see the discussions.

I hope everyone is having a tremendous year! I can't wait to see many of you in San Antonio.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

How Exciting

Thomas and Larry, congrats on being "Googled". I have Holocaust listed as an independent news search on my I-Google. You guys came up as the third article!!!! If you want to see it, follow the link:
Great photo, Thomas.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Identity boxes, blogging, listserves, NCTE, and staying in touch

Hello everyone,
It's great to get back here and hear what you are doing. It sounds as if many of you are off to a great start. I, too, began teaching last week and am beginning a freshman seminar on the Arts in NYC with identity boxes and the "Where I'm From" poem. We also have a blog (thank you, Larry, for showing me the power of blogging) and I intend to post my students' readings/performances of their poems in a few weeks.

That said, we want to invite you to begin posting your news updates, classroom stories, and ideas about curriculum on the HEN listserve. We don't want to disable the blog....but we do want to integrate your group with the two other groups who have participated in the summer seminar. As we understand it, the blog is not able to accomodate all of us. To get started, you will all soon be receiving an email from Jennifer about the HEN listserve (hosted by the National Writing Project) and what you need to do if you haven't yet registered. We may lose some of the graphics and exciting images of our blog, but the HEN listserve will enable you to share your thinking, questions, and reflections about teaching the Holocaust with the participants from 2006 nad 2007. I know these teachers will be delighted to hear about what you are doing and they will also be able to share their own classroom work and to respond to queries about books, films, and other Holocaust-related issues with great insight and wisdom.

Certainly, we can keep both going....and see how we feel about the way these different technologies work. If we prefer to stay with the blog, we can. But we hope you will give the HEN listserve a try. And for sure, the main thing is that we continue to find ways to stay in touch.

Finally, I hope we will see as many of you as possible at NCTE.

All the best to all of you,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Well, the school year is off to a start. I began with identity. I decided, based on what we did this summer, to use one word themes throughout the year and connect the lessons to these themes. First, like we did, I wanted the students to consider how they connect to the world around them. I had each create an identity web labeling themselves with all the things they can use to answer the prompt "I am...". I was impressed with the depth they used to describe themselves. We then used these labels to find common themes that we use to define an identity, like nationality, religion, common interests, physical traits, etc. I almost fell over when my afternoon classes (I have 6) took a sudden jump and chose "stereotypes". They decided and understood that some part of our identity comes from the labels thrust upon us by others. Ooooohhhh. So exciting!!

Next we will work on a personal narrative in preparation for the next step in the progression. The students are going to interview someone they know (or I will locate for them) who was alive during WWII. I put the limit at 70 years or older. I would love to see what the kids will discover in these conversations.

Thank you all for the excitement of my year. I love my job. I never thought I could love it even more...but I do!

We are proud of Risha

Hi everyone. We miss all of you very much. We are very proud of Richa's ideas and will be supporting her financially and otherwise to help make her project a great success. We look forward to more of our summer particpants undertaking bold projects to effectuate the process of teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. We will supply you with books and the means to bring in a survivor to speak to your class or better still to your school. Here's to a better world through education. Best regards from all of us.

David A. Field, Vice President, Memorial Library

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav, anyone?

Hey, just wanted to check on Billie and Beth. I don't think I've seen Beth on here, and only one little thing from Billie. If you're out there, let us know how things are going for you with the storm. Some of my family is in Baton Rouge, so if you see some tall skiny guys of various age who are way too emotional and socially awkward - that's them. They'll probably be drunk.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Room to share

Anyone going to San Antonio who wants to share a room. I booked one at the Marriott and my budget probably will not cover it so... let me know. Wendie

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What a day!

There are days when I am simply amazed. In my Holocaust Lit class we are reading The World Must Know. I debated this idea (internally) but came to the conclusion that my students must read at least the first two sections in order to understand as much as possible about this "thing" called the Holocaust. My current format is that they read independently and then bring ideas, emotions, questions, etc. to class discussion. They have "think journals" with them at all times to record these things while they're reading.

Today in class we discussed the section about Christianity, Martin Luther's comments on Judaism, and the history of exile within Judaism. Several students had commented in their journals that they felt a new sense of shame in their religion and a new understanding of Jewish persecution prior to Hitler's empire. The conversation was rich, emotional, and moving. I was so amazed at some of the statements they made and the questions they asked. It was amazing that much of their conversation - the conversation of 15 - 18 year-olds - reflected much of our discussion online before coming to New York. I must say, I underestimated their ability to understand the gravity of it all. I could see it in their eyes. They were hungry for more. They wanted to understand human nature and how "all of this stuff" came to be. Wow! This year is going to be life-changing for all of us, I can feel it.

Today, there was a group of 12 kids, in the middle of Nebraska who began to understand more of the world and themselves. Maybe I can make a difference.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

School trip to England

The teachers in my school want to offer students a trip to London/Scotland or thereabouts. Does anyone (Angela?) have any recommendations on travel agencies that do a really good job? Thanks,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hello all. I am trying to make it to NCTE conference in November. Does anyone want to share a room? Wendie

Friday, August 22, 2008

We're Off to the Races

School started this week and I must say it was a comedy of errors in a lot of respects. Our rosters are not completed , so we don't know who is supposed to be in the class or not. Plus, they have the teacher's schedules all mixed up. I would be expecting a certain class to show up, but another group of students showed up instead. It's always nice to start a class off by having to ask them, "What class is this.?" Thankfully, the students have us all straightened out. I also missed sending my students to lunch on day two. They had to create a special "4th lunch" period heretofore known in our school as "Neuburger's Lunch."

I appreciate all of the replies to my last post regarding how to begin a Holocaust unit. I have decided to start with the research paper. I guess I want the students to see just how broad the topic of the Holocaust is and the wealth of sources they have available to them. I also hope they begin to find a narrower topic for further research they will be doing next semester.

The next thing we will do is read Night collaboratively via a blog with Danielle's class in McCool Junction. Danielle and I are both excited about the possibilities of this. My twenty-one copies of Night have not materialized as promised, so it looks like I'll be digging into my own pocket for those.

Leslie and Danielle both start out with talking about identity, but I am going to work it into my classroom after reading Night. I plan to use the I am From poem as a starting point for a multigenre project. My plans are sketchy from this point on, but will take shape as I get there.

Valarie, I would be most happy to get your ideas, and if you need to call me, give me a jingle. I know I'll enjoy visiting with you. 417 827 0455

Danielle, anything you want to send my way will be appreciated. I'll talk to you in a couple of weeks.

I hope all is going well for everyone.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks Larry

I am finally on the blog. At the end of my second week of school, it is such a joy to watch this video and remember what a great experience we all enjoyed.

Liberator Dies

My brother (a history teacher) sent me an email about this article on It is about James Hoyt - one of the US liberators of Buchenwald. I'm very interested to read the book about experiences told by the people in a small town in Iowa (soon to be published) entitled The Oxford Project. Hoyt is included in the book.

The CNN article describes some of the atrocities that James saw.

Be sure to check it out:


Monday, August 11, 2008

Thoughts on "isms"

My mother and I stumbled upon the Holocaust Center of Northern California last week. It is located the next street up from the Embarcadaro, on Steuart. From our parking space, we could see the Bay Bridge. The fog was beginning to lift and I could make out indigo patches of sky. The neighborhood, idyllic in an urban sense, has gone through a major facelift because of earthquake damage. Anyway, we intended to go to the Freida Kahlo exhibit at the SF Museum of Modern Art but were challenged by not only the crowds lining up around the block, but the long we decided to check out 121 Steuart Street. The building is nondiscript, also housing the Jewish Community Center. I pushed on the glass door and was greeted by two men who immediately asked what we were doing in the building; they were intimidating. After explaining our intent, we were asked to sign in, walk through a metal detector, and were escorted to the basement where an amazing library is located. What struck me was the level of security. Outside, were a number of ethnic eateries, a botique hotel, a pretty cool YMCA, the post office...Inside the door of this building were real, live, men in black! I thought back to the "isms" we discussed in New York and was reminded that for some, principles, beliefs, philosophies are above the law (big duh...World Trade Center...was at Ground Zero...), and that the people in this building, in this yuppie-type neighborhood, understand this truth and feel threatened enough to hire security. Is it just a hopeless wish...tolerance? peace? Are we past the point of opting for conscious dialogue to heal and learn from each other? Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a dark, depressing, black hole... that we will kill each other to protect our "isms." Hopefully, our efforts to promote tolerace will be embraced by the young people we teach. Hopefully, these young people will see beyond race, ethnicity, religion, politics, gender...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

625 words, more on identity

I've been in New Orleans at my parents' place for about a week. This is never easy, for the same reason that it is not easy for many young people of my generation. I don't know why though, but I know the commonality is present. Anyway, last night we went out to eat, and as we were driving home we passed a store on Magazine Street where my dad bought his school uniforms for elementary school. I didn’t know my dad lived near there, so I asked him to show me where he lived. It turned out to be 908 Philip Street. He then showed me the house where he bit his tongue – he has this weird flap in his tongue because when he was playing football once he bit it and tore his tongue. I know this because he is similar to Michael Jordan, whenever he does anything he usually has his tongue out, and is usually biting it. I have these vivid memories of my dad from when I was growing up, and he could be cutting wood, or playing basketball, or washing the car, and his tongue was always out, and the little flap was always there. He then showed me the house where his half-sister Cleo lived; her father committed suicide and her mother couldn’t cope, so his family took Cleo in when my father was in 5th grade and she was a bit younger. This compassion, by people who were so poor, has always put me to shame. Then we drove a few more blocks and he showed me where he went to elementary school: 2001 Constance Street at St. Alphonsus Elementary School. It is connected to St. Alphonsus Church, which is now a Community Center, and was the largest domed building in the state of Louisiana before the Superdome was built. St. Alphonsus is right across the street from St. Mary’s Assumption Church; from what I’ve found they even share the same address somehow so that they both gain national historic designation. St. Mary’s was built for the German immigrants in the area; St. Alphonsus was built for the Irish immigrants. This history is really neat to me, and simply understood as the way things go, rather than negative. My dad told me stories of having to walk out of the school, down the lines in the sidewalk, “or the alligators would get you,” on the way to the cafeteria. He told me of getting left-over buns from the cafeteria on the way home from school, when there were left-overs, and how they would still be warm and were so good. I remember wanting to cry in the car, and now I am. He talked about having to cross Jefferson Ave., a pretty big street, by himself, from the age of 6. We talked about Abigail, my niece and his granddaughter, who just turned 7, having to walk anywhere by herself, and how we wouldn’t allow it because it is so unsafe here now, but also how she couldn’t do it even if it was safe because she couldn’t figure her way out of a cardboard box. We smiled and we laughed, and I thanked him for showing me around, and I feel like I have some more addresses to add to my Identity Box.

And I wanted to share this with you, because of the journey we traveled in the short two weeks we had together. This experience made me think not only of Identity, but also Place, which Steve and I discussed for a bit, and is certainly a theme in Steve’s writing.

Thanks for being really cool people, and leaving your fingerprints on my soul. And thanks for putting up with me and my rambling writing.

Use Comics to Connect

I was doing a news search today and saw two interesting articles. One talks about the power of the graphic novel Maus. I am planning to try to get my library to purchase the book for our stacks. I have to see if it can be approved as a young adult book limiting it's borrowing to the 8th graders. Those of you teaching high school might want to see if it could be added to your libraries. We have found in the past year, our reluctant readers are more than happy to read complex stories delivered in a comic-like format. Here is the link:

The other is a comic that will be coming out soon. Comic writers are working together to help a holocaust survivor retrieve ownership of artwork she created in Auschwitz. Following is a small excerpt and the link.
Neal Adams, Joe Kubert and Stan Lee have joined forces with a Holocaust expert to craft a comic that document the struggle of an Auschwitz survivor who painted watercolors to spare her mother's life in the Nazi camp.
The artist, Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, 85, created a Disney mural in the children's barracks at Auschwitz before being tapped by Dr. Josef Mengele to paint portraits of Gypsy prisoners. Babbitt cut a deal with the Nazi madman that spared her mother's life in exchange for the paintings. Now, some of Babbitt's artwork is in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, and Babbitt wants it back, according to The New York Times.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hi Everyone

I have been pretty much a lurker these last couple of weeks. I arrived home in time to go to Columbia, MO to do a demonstration on podcasting in front of some teacher consultants. I then had a couple of days to do some reading and writing in preparation for my writing project site's advanced institute where we are researching our local communities. We are using a book titled Writing: Our Communities. In order to build upon my NY experience, I spent three days researching the Jewish community in Springfield. I was surprised to find there has been some useful records kept at the Missouri State Library, as well as several brief historical accounts. As I move forward with the research, I hope to meet some of our local Jewish academics (yes they are here) who might be able to point me to some primary sources. I don't know what I will do with all of this, but opportunities will present themselves I am sure.

I have had time to read Night and Five Chimneys. A writing project fellow has promised to give me 21 copies of Night. This is exciting because I now have enough books to develop several activities related to the Holocaust. However, I am stuck as to how to begin. Anybody have any ideas? I'll be doing this with a senior English classes. I thought about having them do a general research paper on the Holocaust, followed with a research paper and powerpoint demo on one of the camps. We could then go into Night with discussions on a class blog. From this point I would have them create and present a mutigenre project. Does anybody have any suggeions on how to start this little campaign off? Is having them start off with a research paper ok? Some feedback from my more experienced fellows would be appreciated.

I am happy to see so many of you posting. I have read some wonderful stuff. If there is anyone out there needing my assistance on posting or getting involved email me at:

One last thing, it would be nice to know how some of you are integrating what we learned into your curriculum.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Seminar Overview - 10 minutes long

Below is a video I made for a demonstration Thomas and I gave at the Missouri Writing Project Network 's Leadership Retreat. Thomas and I, along with Kim Grayson, who attended the Holocaust seminar last year, presented a demonstration to around sixty writing project leaders from around the state of Missouri. We started with this video, which includes almost 2000 images taken by several of us; Thomas talked about several of the demonstrations we saw involving "Changing Perspectives" and Kim did an actual demonstration. We finished with demonstrating the appication process and hopefully more from Missouri will apply for next years seminar. Feedback from participants was very positive.
The video is around 10 minutes long and includes some video clips of Gisa and Irving in addition to the 2000 pictures. Believe it or not, I eliminated over 1200 images to keep our presentation within the allotted time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Choice as I Move Forward

Reflecting on an experience such as the past weeks is difficult. There are so many emotions. The brain hasn’t had a chance to process and assimilate all the sensations.

Because of this experience, I wonder about my own prejudices. I find biases everywhere. I have thoughts about smokers and New Yorkers and men and hoodlums and ignorant people and fundamentalist religious followers and welfare abusers, and so many more. It’s hard to accept. I am certain people have these same thoughts about the various groups into which I find myself a member.

It saddens me because I felt like I was a person who looked at the individual, not the group stereotype. Yet, I have the same frailties of those who hate. Maybe the lesson we take from this exposure to the results of hatred is that we each carry prejudices within us. It is what we do during those moments when these biases rear their ugly heads that determines what kind of people we are.

Perhaps this is the lesson we teachers give to the children in our charge. Our choices have consequences. How do we make the choices? What do we do with the consequences of the choices we make? Ultimately, permit ourselves the time to consider and make a choice. I take from this experience that standing aside as a bystander is never the right choice. I must encourage my students to take a stand, to make a difference, and to change the world—no matter how small a scale that world might encompass.

This is the action I choose to take. It may be only a drop in this great big world, but I can’t wait to see how the ripples my drop makes will fan out and affect the ocean of our world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

721 words; thoughts while not able to sleep at 2:38 am CST, 07-29-08

I’ve returned home, and it’s been interesting. I read Irving’s book, I watched the DVD from the 2006 seminar a couple of times, now I’m reading Olga’s book. In my first year of teaching I used to go to Barnes and Noble a lot and read entire books while I was there. I told my students I did this and they accused me of stealing because I wasn’t paying for the books. In this way, on Sunday, I read Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Day by Elie Wiesel. Jewish Literacy was read because of my determination to come to some working order of the identity of Jewishness; I (and we) might be satisfied with ambiguity, but I don’t think my 8th graders will be. And on a side note: I don’t think acceptance of all will come when we become ignorant of our identities, but when we come to celebrate the uniqueness of our identities (GO SUE!). Day was read because it was there, and I hadn’t read it yet. It is an amazing book; the writing reminded me of two of my favorite authors: Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. When me and my college buddies discovered The Stranger we never knew someone so intelligent and so dead could describe absurd existence with so few words; it always took us a long time to try to explain anything. I’m quite sure Wiesel is not an existentialist, but his despondency in Day is so complete that I’m sure I’ve only encountered it in Camus and Sartre (and maybe Chuck Palahniuk, but maybe I don’t read widely enough). I took notes as I read, both of the actual words Wiesel used (in my opinion it is his best work I’ve read) and my responses to his words.

Just at the end of the six o’clock hour I read this: “I wanted to get rid of all the filth that was in me and graft it onto her pupils and her lips, which were so pure, so innocent, so beautiful. I bared my soul. My most contemptible thoughts and desires, my most painful betrayals, my vaguest lies, I tore them from inside me and placed them in front of her, like an impure offering, so she could see them and smell their stench.”

According to my journal, at 7:02 pm, this was my response: I want to eat glass. I want to pound car hoods and scream and cry – no weep. I want to bleed a thousand times over and walk through crowds of witnesses with questioning eyes and jaws hung open out of horror. I am a murdered, an adulterer, and a thief. I don’t know how to wake up in the morning. The only thing I want is to hate myself even more. And now my eyes wander, imagining: smiles and laughter, family, and happiness.

In his “Preface” to The Myth of Sysiphus, Camus writes: “The fundamental subject of ‘The Myth of Sysiphus’ is this: it is legitimate and necessary to wonder whether life has a meaning; therefore it is legitimate to meet the problem of suicide face to face. The answer, underlying and appearing through the paradoxes which cover it, is this: even if one does not believe in God, suicide is not legitimate. . . . Although ‘The Myth of Sysiphus’ poses mortal problems, it sums itself up for me as a lucid invitation to live and to create, in the very midst of the desert.”

Somehow, in all the absurdity, Camus found a way to be encouraged by bleakness; this is the greatest difference between him and Wiesel. Camus relished the absurd life; Wiesel was pushed into it. In the “Preface” to Day, Wiesel explains that he had to change a few specifics to fictionalize his encounter with the cab in New York; he really didn’t see the cab, so his accident wasn’t a suicide attempt. Still, in his story, it had to be faced. In Night he was the messenger of death, witnessing the murder of his family and his people, and walking away a corpse. In Dawn he brought death to the doorstep of his enemy. In Day, he faced self-imposed death, and discovered “to be and not to be. . . . That man lives while dying, that he represents death to the living.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shoah, New York - Stephen Smith

Steve emailed his final reflection piece and asked me to post it. Enjoy!!

Shoah, New York

“We are always afraid of falling so we balance ourselves.”
Louise Bourgeois

Broadway and 42nd Street

The sound of July escaping,
a musician moving air
with the striated muscles of an ex-junkie,
flexed stance of a subway vet. A bluesy flute, moving fetid air, moving me
past furtive glances, cold stares.
He blows long cascading notes as we enter the station,
bracing his body against the slowing train, against our leaving,
hands on the final notes, balanced.

The notes, strung out along the tracks,
climb the stairs, move through turnstiles,
funnel, then spread up and down Broadway
to heaven and hell.

The train has stopped but no one moves. Silence hangs.

I expect applause, but get a last ironic note:

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for that wonderful round of applause…

…If you can find it in your heart
to make a small donation, I would truly appreciate it. This is Times Square,
please watch your step as you leave the train.”

Broadway and 12th Street

At Strand’s in the Village I hold the new translation of Elie Wiesel’s Night. The New York Times calls it a “slim volume of terrifying power.” After fifteen city blocks and three beers I have not escaped day three of a two-week seminar on “Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Holocaust.” Today, we met Gisa, a Holocaust survivor.

In clumps of syllables she tells us “After the war was a famous slogan—‘Never again,’ but that I think is lie.” We nod and take notes—boxcars of 80 people traveled for three days and nights, without water, one bucket for shit and piss. The waste ran down her legs, where it caked and dried. When they arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she saw the smokestacks—“What is belching out like that? Why is it stinking? Why white particles—like butterflies—we didn’t know.”

At 84, she is small, slight, with dark eyes, dark hair, and a direct gaze.
I am reeling from her words.

“…ate clumps of grass, boiled up like spinach soup.”

“…had to undress in front of men…and the world, because this was our world.”

“…if you wanted to finish your rotten life, you could run to the electric fences.”

She watched her mother taken out and shot in her hometown, watched her older sister and little brother march to the shower where they were gassed. Her sister, knowing what awaited them, tossed her braided hair back, took her brother’s hand and went left. Gisa felt the ponytail brush her face, and went right.

How did you survive? I want to ask.

One time she laughed at her friend’s childish prank, but told us “You cannot laugh with crematoria belching out human skin.”

When she finishes answering questions,
Gisa, “slim volume of terrifying power,”
asks to use the restroom.

36 Battery Place

From the windows of the Museum of Jewish Heritage I see Ellis Island
and the Statue of Liberty. Under brilliant blue sky the harbor teems with ship traffic, with life. We are studying primary sources, trying to understand the cold steel engineering of the Nazi war machine.

“Ninety-seven thousand Jews have been processed in the trucks to date, but minor operating defects have been discovered and we recommend the following improvements.”

Like my Krupps coffee maker, an efficient machine, but the filter clogs occasionally, spilling coffee. I should write the company.

“It would be desirable in future to install electric lights, shielded by a steel grill, in the ceiling of the truck. For it is dark in the car when the doors are closed, and when the exhaust gas begins to be piped in, the result has been panic and loud screams, which make the work of the drivers more difficult and may attract undesirable attention.”

Some of my fellow teachers are gasping, some crying. When we take a break, anger and horror spill out of the conference room. How do I teach this to fifteen year olds? What pedagogy is there for efficient, technological mass murder?

“In addition it is desirable to make the cars shorter—although we are aware of the concern expressed by the engineers regarding the increased pressure on the front axle. There is no need for concern about the overweight on the front axles of the trucks, for the merchandise, without exception, is pushed together during the journey and, for understandable psychological reasons, pressed to the locked doors at the rear end, so the weight will nevertheless be well distributed on both axles.”

I look up from this document, checking the blue, the harbor, and Liberty.

Delancey at Essex, Lower East Side

We do a fine job of memorializing those we have slaughtered. Some of us have become very rich off the tragedy of others. In Hollywood, they say there’s no business like Shoah business. Ask Steven Spielberg.

In the last year, I’ve read reviews on three new films about the Rwandan genocide. For this year’s National History Day competition, one of my students developed a website on the Khmer Rouge that took her all the way to Washington DC.

One can now take a virtual tour of the “most significant act of domestic terrorism on American soil,” the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The website encourages the tourist to visit “the famed gates and empty chairs to appreciate the beauty and serenity.”

Many cities in our country have a street or park named after Martin Luther King, and they’re often a symbol of a city’s health. Detroit’s Martin Luther King Blvd is a mass of potholes and weedy sidewalks, but I found a beautifully maintained MLK park tucked away in the Lower East Side.

In New York City, there seems to be a museum for most oppressed groups, including Jews, American Indians, Chinese, and even tenement dwellers.

New York teachers can adopt a Holocaust survivor. It’s almost as easy in places like McCool Junction, Nebraska and Paradise, Michigan. We can meet a death camp survivor on line, say from Bergen-Belsen, ask questions, get to know him or her...sort of.

Despite our efforts to honor and remember, to share stories, to teach the past in order to inform the present, we continue the horror. “Never again” is a phrase completely devalued by our repeated history. And when we’re not killing, we ignore, even those we honor. By one count, today there are over 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in poverty.

Maybe it is enough to survive as something other than our original self.

Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street

Even looking at Rodin’s “Les Bourgeois de Calais ,”
it is not easy understanding man’s horror
when he faces death.
My daughter presses for an explanation.
Then he appears at my side, like a docent, speaking earnestly
about the sculptor, the subject, his own life and his father.
It is more than I need, but I am relieved of parental duty.
I never learn his name, even later when we shake hands,
so I think of him as Frank.

He points to the figure of Jean d’Aire, the second burgher to volunteer
for death. d’Aire stands wide, jaw set, holding
one of the keys to the city, a noose about his head.

“That’s my guy. He’s got that thousand-yard stare.”

I cannot see his eyes. Rodin’s figure is looking beyond death.

“You were in ‘Nam.”

“Thirty-nine months.”

d’Aire stands outsized with enlarged hands and feet,
a paradox of emotions on his face: proud but overcome, hollowed
yet living fully in this last moment of breath.

Frank is here every Saturday, working a few hours at the information desk. After his shift, he tours one of the galleries, piecing together the art and history, but he always ends his day in front of “Les Bourgeois de Calais”—“it’s a French sculpture for the French people, but they didn’t like it because it wasn’t heroic.”

Frank has burn scars on both arms, a twitch in his right eye. After he’s told us everything he must know about the sculpture, I tell him about my friend Irving Roth, a death camp survivor. When the Allies liberated Auschwitz, Irving was 15 years old. “Now, you may have pondered the Messiah, but I saw him—one was black and one was white, they were strong and healthy, and gave us pork beans, and when they saw us, they broke down and cried. Never seen walking skeletons.”

Frank’s eyes well up, but not from the obvious.
“My dad told that story. He was there, too. We could never really talk—we both served, but our wars were different. That’s the only time I ever saw him cry, when he told that story.”

I listen as d’Aire as Rodin as Irving Roth as Frank as Frank’s father
talk through death,
breathing a museum to life.

1.Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 90 & 97 Orchard Street
2. Holocaust Resource Center,
3. The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin, completed in 1888. It serves as a monument to an event in 1347 during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel was under siege by the English for over a year. England's Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais and Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out almost naked and wearing nooses around their necks and be carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first and five other burghers soon followed suit. They stripped down to their breeches and Saint Pierre led this envoy of emaciated volunteers to the city gates. It is this moment and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice and the facing of imminent death that Rodin captures in his figures. In history, though the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England's Queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband by saying it would be a bad omen for her unborn child. The original work is in Calais, while several sites own a casting, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (adapted from Wikipedia)

Bits of My Reflection

In the end, I feel an extreme sense of possibility. My mind runs over and over – how can I make a difference? How can I look at the world in a new way while also engaging my students to do the same? It is no secret that I find poetry as the vehicle for many of my thoughts and emotions. The following poem speaks to our power as educators. To steal a commonly used quote, we must be the change we want to see in the world. We have the power to affect generations to come – to educate the minds of the unborn.


I stand upon the threshold of possibility.
The door is ajar – the door
I can only pass through
as an individual.

It is easy, really, to be in a group
seeking to alter
common perception,
and pedagogy.

In a group we are fearless.
As individuals, what will we be?

Taking the passion,
spiraling outward –
ripples on the pond.
Throw a stone,
watch it splash,
sink – long gone by the
final ripple’s calm.
Sleeping, alone, on a riverbed of stones
But that ripple – the stone’s legacy –
does not remember the splash.

Throw a stone, watch it splash.
Sink deep with the memory of the moment.
Say the word,
cry the tears,
be fearless of the splash.
Look above, see a generation of ripples,
created from understanding.
Gratitude is unspoken, often unknown.

Stand on the threshold, take hold of the stone,
look at the water.
Cross through the door and
sink deep in the river – look up
to the surface.
Watch the ripples – feel the
gratitude of understanding taught
as the result of
one stone,
one thought,
one spoken word.

Profound legacy of the stone –
fearlessness not forgotten
but passed on.

If not now, when?

If every small act of indifference is allowed, tolerated, where will it lead? We all like to think that true evil is large and well defined. But in fact, it’s the tiny pin-prick – the first rain drop. Negativity and evil spread like cancer – consuming the healthy cells and sucking their life.

I must set out to bear witness to the small acts of indifference, to take notice when another’s prejudices are brought to the surface. This seminar has been my call to action. The people I’ve come to know and love will be my network of possibility. I will never be the same teacher, woman, mother, or human as a result of this experience and for that I will always be thankful.

To my fellow seminar members and facilitators –
This experience.
This learning.
This loss.
It’s about voices.
Like thread weaving a cloth –
the voices tell their stories to weave a picture
of what was,
what was lost,
and what must be.

I never want to forget the stories, the tears, the words, the tones, and the moments. We have come together in this beautiful city to share our understanding and confusion. I leave here with all of you – fingerprints on my heart. We came, we saw, we learned, we loved, and we spoke with our voices.

Twelve days ago we had not met and today you will never leave me. I love you all and am a better person for knowing you.

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Final Reflection: Poem

I Never Want to Forget Any of You
(In Remembrance and Celebration of “Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Holocaust,”
July 7 – 18, 2008)

By Valerie Diane Bolling

I never want to forget …
Sue’s tears which display her deep sensitivity for all living things and her desire to preserve beauty in the world as she does in her monolithic rock gardens
Tom’s strong sense of Catholicism, slow, easy smile, and poetic words from one who didn’t think he could write poetry
Beth as an inspiration to all young people that you can be born to a teenage mother, cope with family loss and personal illness, and still emerge with a Ph.D.
Thomas’ love for sports and music, and his remembrance of addresses and awareness of the kind of superiority competitive sports can breed
Steve’s ability to find poetry in the streets of New York and how wonderful it was that he could share this with his wife (his “passion and inspiration”) and valedictorian daughter
Jan’s ability to recognize that combating prejudice must start at home -- we must not only look at the atrocities committed on others’ soil but also on our own
Risha’s beauty, strapless dress or not, gorgeous singing and spoken voice, and love of shopping; I’ll also remember to keep Clay in my prayers
Danielle – Risha’s partner in crime -- if shopping for purses and cashminas is a crime, and her vast knowledge of technology and ability to weave words into magic
Billie’s spirit, knowledge and love of literature and plays -- oh to be a student in her classroom
Wendy’s melodic voice, coming from a place of wisdom and questioning and figuring out where she -- and we all -- might fit into this world
Ilka’s never-ending thinking, reflecting, and analyzing, and always her love of Gabryella and the color purple
Gail’s impressive knowledge of technology and of best practices for bringing it into the classroom
Debi’s energy and vitality, effervescence when sharing stories of Lucca, and “self-enrollment” in Jewish society
Leslie’s positive personality, knowledge and scrutiny of politics, and love of walking – thanks for the walking tour of SoHo and SoNo on a rainy evening
Pam’s caring about social justice, the relationships she’s cultivated for herself and her students with the children of Rwanda
Deanne’s cuteness, beautiful brown skin, enjoyment of Larry, and shouts of “Whoo-who!”
Larry’s sense of humor, beer drinking, and role as the creator of our blog -- a way for us to keep in touch and share ideas and writing
Angela’s initial exhilaration at being a part of the group -- a thrill that continued to grow throughout the seminar and ended in tears at the thought of leaving
Alice’s “hostess with the mostest” presence -- making sure we knew exactly how to get to where we were headed -- thank you for that wonderful day in Brooklyn, culminating in a pleasurable time spent at your home
Sondra’s sweet calm, even when she was forced to keep on us a tight schedule, and her openness about her teaching, writing, and personal identities -- thanks for sharing your children with us
Jennifer’s perfect teeth, reflective manner, and willingness to let me borrow her cashmina in the name of comfort and “fashion”
Gatsinzi’s honesty and emotion when apologizing to Gisa for not knowing there had been a genocide “worse” than the one that had claimed his family members in Rwanda
Pat’s decision to be a part of our group, despite family situations at home … and then having to depart suddenly when her family needed her more than we did

I never want to forget ...
How different, similar, and wonderful we all are
We are African, African-American, Native American, Filipino, Finnish, German, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Southern, Northern, Midwestern
We are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, grandparents, grandchildren, friends, readers, writers, thinkers, questioners, researchers
We are teachers
Striving to break the cycle of hate in our classrooms, student by student
And ultimately, the world
Educating not only our students but also family members and friends
So that they know there is no home for prejudice and genocide
In a civilized world
In a world in which we want ALL of our children to live

Monday, July 21, 2008

Simply Amazed!

I am simply amazed at all that is on this blog. There is no way I could view it all. I miss all of you -- our work together and fun times spent together. I will plan to post soon my final reflection -- where I celebrate each of you. Enjoy these weeks of summer.

: ) Valerie

P.S. I want to share two book titles with you -- not Holocaust-specific but related. The first is one I was reading while in NYC, Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, an Irish immigrant who, because of jaw cancer, undergoes surgery at age nine, which removes part of her face. What is more painful for her than the radiation, chemo, and numerous attempts at reconstructive surgery is how she's viewed, teased, ignored because of her looks. Unsurprisingly,Lucy internalizes this suffering as well.
The other book I'm currently reading is When She Was White by Judith Stone. This book really delves into the whole issue of race classification. One of the presenters talked about this at the Jewish Heritage Museum, and Gatsinzi talked about this with the Tutsis and Hutus. This book deals with this in the context of apartheid South Africa when a "coloured" child is born to a white couple. The racism, that supposedly isn't racism -- just protection of the child and her needs, is incredible. She is thrown out of her white boarding school, and her parents fight to keep her classification as "white," even when she is reclassified as "coloured." Of course, the obvious irony is that none of this would even be problematic if race classification were a non-issue.

Empty Space

I too feel a big empty space in my life, even though I am so glad to be back with my family. I finished Five Chimneys last night (I slept almost all the way home on Saturday), and like Night, and Survival in Auschwitz, Olga's story is hard to read and hard to put down. I am going to read Salvaged Pages next, on Thomas' recommendation, to try to find some primary texts for my students to read.

Our last evening together, full of singing and laughter, will remain with me always. Check out the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website for updates on Sudan and Darfur. You can sign up for emails that keep you up to date on that and other situations.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Holy Fire

from Wendie Marks

I wonder where everyone is. It does not seem quite correct that we have all gone our separate ways. There is so much that we have experienced and so much still to be said. Be well all.

The Holy Fire

Eyes burning for days; tears washing my face
If only one person could quench their thirst
and survive from my tears.

But no
It is too late
I have arrived too late
My heart swells aches cracks and seems to break

When will we the world recover?
How can we ask?
Hope to?
Dare to?
When so many have been lost?

There must be some meaning
We must make something of this
This raging fire hot blazes of combustion
Burnings, shootings, slaughterings, and so much more.
The annihilation of entire civilizations, a race.

But no! There are eighteen leafy green oaks pushing through stones.
Growing out of blue grey multi-colored boulders.
Something is surviving. Some have survived.

"These few these happy few?"

If Christ died for the peoples sin
Then is it possible that the holocaust
And the many other cruelties of mankind
May be a payment an exchange in the name of a higher good?

How might one understand the actions of murderers?

How might one transform all that we have seen
And all that we have remembered?
Is it the remembering that is the transformation?

Under crystal chandeliers we emerge
To higher forms of civilization: philosophy, art, music, poetry

Purification through fire gives birth to a refined humanity
An uplifted humanity.

Would you jump into the fire for a greater cause?
To transform all that you have seen and remember
Jump into the holy fire.
That is our great work.

There are bystanders and will be bystanders.
I am one of these too paralyzed and frozen
To be effective - to care about anything except ones own precious safety.

What if we stepped out?
What if we emerged from the grey stone
What if we were part of the rebirth of civilization.

Something passionate - yes
If only we could look through our eyes and not with them.

Will you come with me?
Let us jump into the holy fire.
To transform not once not twice but again and again
Let us join hands and jump together!

Friday, July 18, 2008


Ladies and Gents,
Most of you know I have been recording lines that I found amusing, inspirational, and somehow reflected our journey this past week. Some will be clear to all of you. Some will be clear to a few. A few of us thought some of the lines would make great prompts in our classrooms, especially the most profound. Read them. Enjoy them.
As you will...

Where does curiosity come from?
This was not just a workshop. This was a life experience.
I am in the process of becoming human.
Since I feel powerless, should I be relegated to garbage?
What are the conversations we don't have?
Romanticizing the past...
(Through clenched teeth) Take the [freakin'] picture, Larry.
Donna Reed was on.
Excuse ME!!!!!
Help me! I'm a [freaking] tourist.
I'm gonna talk about her even though she's here.
That's my shower song.
For posterity...
Maybe we can be with you when you get discovered.
We are going to be the dynamic duo.
I teach at this very exotic place called the lower east side.
It's biblical. That means from the bible.
Well, aren't I Captain Obvious?
Don't lick the bull's balls in Winter. (The one on Wall Street.)
What's the point? Is the point to gawk?
Christians wouldn't do this.
I know my parents did the best they could, but it wasn't enough.
Hot and taut.
What is it to be alive without spirituality?
Some trees gave their lives so they could be here.
I want to blow people's minds.
For two years, I was an illegal alien.
Close your legs, woman. (Bystander on subway)
What is this?.......It's a camera.
I invented gum.
If not now, when?
So, it's not a booze cruise.
She's got black-tipped fingertoes.
Where is freakin' Larry?
Boy, this chicken is really dry. (It's not chicken. LOL)
We all have an Alex.
If I have to lie, I do it.
But you look normal.
I have a Zach, not an Alex.
The most important thing is the conversation.
It's like water dropping on a stone.
There are certain people who you just feel you swim with.
Establish that line and give them that choice.
In your class, everyone gets the home court advantage.
Teachers who are closet Alexes???
Diarrhea is no cure for constipation.
A Jew is someone who bends rules and creates laws.
How do you define a race?
It's a question of time.
I'm guarding the door.
Maybe they should relocate.
To me, you need to ask for forgiveness to get forgiveness.
That's why I go to therapy.
Anger is the best anti-depressant I know.
Is there a book, Judaism for Dummies?
The Almighty Loophole
Oh, the food.
Surviving. Reviving.
This is Dr. Billy.
Put that in the blog.
My drag name is Dangling Participle.
Yeah, but you're an ignorant (un-knowing) hypocrite.
Mommy, Daddy sad at you.
What kind of pill did you need?
Sometimes you just gotta hide the ugly.
At the time, you cannot be that person.
Out of the tension comes the creativity. ~Jung
Any teacher can be a sanctuary.

It has been a blessing to spend this time with all of you.
Much love...Ilka

Day 8- The Lower East Side, Sailing, & Fireworks

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Several people asked me to provide everyone with the address of the website which has the short movie trailer (5 minutes) from "Forgiving Dr. Mengele" in which we see the two sides of the argument over forgiving the Nazis, or refusing to forgive them, so clearly portrayed by two survivors. It would make a great introduction or conclusion to the book "The Sunflower" if you are going to use it in your classes.

Copy and paste this link into your browser.

Gisela Glaser - Survival Story

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day Off in Brooklyn

Days 5 & 6

Irving Roth - Islamism

Where Am I Now?

So, please forgive me - these are a few of my random thoughts for today. If you read nothing else, find the last stanza and listen to its song.....

Child of the Sea

I search for quiet...for the peace that my soul is longing for.
In a dizzying world of fast and faster,
to find the calm necessary to draw upon often seems daunting.
The noise of busy is accompanied by the noise of learning.
Taking in, processing such strong emotion,
and utter inhumanity is mind numbing.
The orchestra of my thoughts whirls in a crescendo of bass
and wind
and trumpet
and steel.

This thing, this idea of forgiveness shakes to the core
my inner realization of life, of learning, and understanding.
To be on the precipice of knowledge leaves me squarely at the starting line.
What does it mean?
To speak aloud, is that enough?
The music of history plays to the drum of humanity.
Marching, pressing,
flying and falling.
The lullaby, a children's hymn,
calms our fears and disillusion envelops the reality
of what is and what will be.

Imagination is a question of reality.
What will life lead us to envision next?
But when dreams fall into a cascading river of blood
there are no words to be spoken.
Dreaming of quiet, of peace.
Imagining a world where dreams are in color
and the lullaby is soft, soothing.
No lure, no rapid rise and fall.

What does it mean, to forgive?
What does it mean, to understand?
Quiet and calm, words with no meaning.
Look at their eyes, their soft, brown,
dying eyes.
Live with their story.

Sing for their sorrow.
Hush little baby,
don't say a word.
Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird.

Sing for their lives, marched into oblivian.
And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Momma's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

Sing for their hopes, their pain, and their joy.
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Momma's gonna buy you a looking glass.

Sing for their faces, their reflection stolen.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Momma's gonna buy you a billy goat.

Sing for their love, longing and life.
And if that billy goat runs away.

Sing for their babies, lost in feces and despair.
Momma's gonna buy you another day.

Sing for the child alone in a sea of corpses, calling for his mother.
Let your song blend with his desperate cries.
Allow the music on your lips to envelop his thin, naked body.
Sing until he is calm.
Hum the melody of a child's song as he kneels beside his mother's cold body.
Watch as he rests his head upon her breast.
See as he closes his eyes.
Feel as his spirit dies in a sea of ashes and flesh.
Breathe his last breath.
Walk forward with his story upon your lips.
Close your eyes, envision his life that will never be.
Find solace in your ability to speak.
Tell all of his song - screams stifled by hatred.
And always...sing for the child of the sea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Analyzing photos

This is a worksheet that you can use to help students decipher and "read" photographs.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Avenue Q

I told Larry I didn't plan on posting simply because I was busy being a tourist, but in the interest of appeasing him, and offering up some interesting information for those who attended Avenue Q, I present the following link.

Avenue Q Soundtrack

On this page you should find the entire sound track of Avenue Q, in mp3 format compatible with iPods or other players. Simply right click on each song, and "save target as" to wherever you keep your songs on your computer, and you'll have the soundtrack for free.
Enjoy, and thanks for being a great group of people.


Irving Roth _ Survival Story

Adopt Irving

Weekend Pictures from around New York

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Day 4 - Irving Roth & Shabbat

Thoughts jotted down on t.p.


We gather here in a sacred place,
a house that belonged to her.
We examine this topic called Holocaust
listening to their tragedies.
Tears fill our eyes.
Pain enters our being.
We feel the attack
through years and space.

She makes us laugh with
her humor as she tells her tale.
The friend for whom she almost gave all.
Did this friend ever say "Thanks"?
Her quiet strength and determination
giving us much to admire.

He tells his tale of adversity
and loss,
but with a little twist.
He begs us to take his place.
Remember him.
Learn to be him.
Become him and others
as time moves on.
We cannot help but feel
the need to step in
and adopt this powerful legacy.

And yet...

We gather here in this sacred place
to honor those who suffered,
still thinking them and us.
Not realizing the comments
being said...
as walls are being torn down,
the stones and sand are simply shifting,
transferring over to newer, smaller walls
just starting to

"They honor God in a strange way,
different from what I know."
And there is laughter.
"They could have prevented the tragedy
of lonely children,
if only they cared."
And there are nods.
"They are ruining this country
with their policies and beliefs."
And there is agreement among us.

The lesson here is that the world consists
of shades of gray,
some dark
some light.
All creating an image of lives.

You honor God a different way than I,
and we share.
You have made mistakes,
and I still see the good you have achieved.
I don't agree with your politics,
and you are free to believe
as you wish.

We should share
what makes us unique
without fear of consequence.
We should honor those differences
and seek common ground.
We should not be us and them.

learned, did we not?
Us and them
leads to hate and death.
Us and them
leads to conflict.
Us and them
leads to pain
and shame
and closed spaces.

Throw out us and them.
Become you and me and us and we.

You may think differently,
but I listen to your reasons and comprehend.
You look different.
Your skin may be a different color.
Your features may be composed of different lines and shapes.
You are beautiful to me.
You live a different life, but
we still share a common bonds,
of family and love
and hope for our children's future.

We can agree to disagree
because I value
all the pieces of you.

And once this is accepted,
us and them
becomes we
and the pain, tragedy, and killing stop,
because we are now one.