South Florida teachers are bringing back Holocaust lessons to their classrooms that they learned during a two-day virtual training conference they participated in this summer.
The local teachers were among more than 700 from around the country that participated in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 2020 Arthur and Rochelle Belfer National Conference for Educators.
Sanford Lopater, who teaches the School District of Palm Bech County’s Holocaust elective at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres, mentioned the lessons he learned from the conference that he has already implemented in his class.
“I use the lessons on Guidelines for Teaching the Holocaust, the lessons and information on anti-Semitism, and I use a lot of the museum’s extensive materials on topics throughout the Holocaust to create my PowerPoints and lesson plans,” he explained.
Lopater found the conference to be well-planned and thought there was an excellent variety of topics to learn from.
“The presenters were all very well-versed in their presentations, and the opportunities for discussion and collaboration were excellent,” he continued. “Even today, we are still able to reach out to participants to discuss and exchange teaching ideas and methodologies.”
Lopater added, “This is why this is the second time I have attended the Belfer Conference.”
“It is always an excellent seminar in which to learn more about teaching this important topic,” he noted.
Lopater said, “The importance of Holocaust education is at an all-time high, considering the recent studies that say that many students do not know the Holocaust ever happened, nor do they understand the implications of the Holocaust as it relates to the current scope of politics and protesting.”
“The fact that the survivors are dwindling is another issue, since once they are gone, the deniers will say there are no witnesses so it can not be proven to have happened,” he continued. “Holocaust education is one of the most important subjects to teach right now due to the current atmosphere in our country.”
Another local participant was Elise Erblat, a social studies teacher in the Upper School at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.
Erblat, who is currently teaching in-person with some of her students learning virtually, said, “I am currently implementing all [as much as I am able], of the information, resources and ideas from the Belfer Conference.”
“This is the first year of the Holocaust studies course at my school, and I want to give it the respect and honor it deserves given the content,” she said. “The conference, as well as the national Holocaust museum’s teaching materials, have been extremely useful as a first-time educator of the Holocaust as a stand alone course.”
Christopher Souza, who teaches social studies, religion, literature and science at Saint Lawrence Catholic School in North Miami Beach, also praised the conference.
“The Belfer Conference was an amazing opportunity to not only learn from experts at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, but also a chance to collaborate virtually with colleagues throughout the United States,” Souza said. “By participating in this conference, I now feel more confident in using many of the USHMM’s amazing virtual resources and videos to help make teaching the Holocaust relevant to my students.”
Souza continued, “I am also very excited to use the resources and methodologies taught during the conference in hands-on activities such as the Timeline Activity and History Unfolded to help place the events of the Holocaust in context.”
Other local teachers that participated are from Lake Worth, Delray Beach, Hollywood, Wellington, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Margate.
Visit ushmm.org for more information on the conference.
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