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MONTREAL, JUNE 15, 2011–  Seven teachers from Quebec, including two from the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), will leave for Israel in July for a three week experience as part of the Yad Vashem International Seminar for Educators.

From the EMSB, teachers Jason Lipstein (General Vanier Elementary School in St. Léonard) and Stacey Blumer (Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North) were selected  as recipients  of the 2011 Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators Program ( Spiritual Community Animator Vince Lacroce  (Laurier Macdonald, General Vanier and Dalkeith) was also chosen, but he  had to cancel due to family commitments. The Hechts are also sponsoring two teachers from the Lester B. Pearson School Board: Anne Edgar  (St. Edmund Elementary School in Beaconsfield) and David Barbiero (Beaconsfield High School).

Annie Frenette, who teaches at a  private French  school, is being sponsored by Victor David; Myriam Provost, from a French public school in Joliette, is going thanks to the  assistance of Dana and Bill Bell while Sabrina Moisan, the educational coordinator for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, will also accompany the group with the support of Irwin Tauben, Janice Levine and Miriam Shuster.

The  teachers  can now look forward to taking part next summer in  a professional development program  under the direction of the Faculty of the Yad Vashem Seminars for Educators from Abroad, International School for Holocaust Studies.  The goal of the program is to provide professional development activities to teachers for teaching about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism to students in the youth Sector.  Scholarship recipients  will receive both pre-training and follow-up activities sponsored by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and the Bronfman Jewish Education Centre. An orientation program  is available prior to  leaving for Israel. Each recipient will be asked to create at least one teaching unit or module developed within the context learned at the Yad Vashem experience for implementation in the classroom.The unit/module has to be incorporated into the Quebec project-based curriculum and be considered for integration into the areas of cultural, language, history, literacy or art-based activities. 

Recently the Hechts hosted a dinner for the recipients, sponsors and organizers. Two previous winners from the EMSB, Linda Shetzer from Parkdale Elementary School in St. Laurent and Donna Perlin from St. Monica Elementary School in NDG were on hand to share their experience.

“ I am truly grateful for having participated in the Yad Vashem experience,”  said Perlin. “The Hechts generosity has given me the tools to be confident in teaching the Holocaust to my students.    I took what I learned from the seminar and brought it into my Grade 2  and kindergarten classes.   The winter holiday season is the perfect time of year to teach students about acceptance and tolerance of others. Both my classes  learned about a holiday many of them do not practice, Chanukah. With their new found knowledge they began to draw similarities amongst the holidays: Christmas and Chanukah. For example, students realized that both holidays encourage people to help those in need and they are about family time and bringing family members closer together. Students were engaged in a project where they created two banners simultaneously of Chanukah and Christmas to exhibit what they learned.”

Yaron Ashkenazi, executive director of the Canadian  Friends of Yad Vashem in Toronto, noted that  the International Educators’ Seminar was launched  in 1995 and since that time approximately 3,000 teachers from all over the world, including Canada, have participated. Educators from public and private Jewish educational frameworks come to Yad Vashem from North America, Australia, South America, and Eastern Europe. “The international flavor of the seminar allows the educators to experience the diverse understanding and pedagogical imperatives of their colleagues,” said Ashkenazi, who served in a special paratroop unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, and as an officer in the Personal Protection Unit of the Israeli Shin Bet. “The seminar provides educators with the facts of the Shoah and the pedagogical tools to teach this sensitive topic.”

The seminar is built upon three major pillars; academic, pedagogical, and experiential, reflective of the educational philosophy of the school. Ashkenazi notes that the academic component takes educators through the history and culture of the Jewish people in the interwar period, a people with diverse interests and roots – not a people born as victims. The pedagogical component provides participants with the tools to translate this academic content into suitable pedagogical materials that are age appropriate and multi-disciplinary. Field trips across Israel are also planned that will connect educators not only with the recent history of the Jewish people but also with its ancient roots in the Land of Israel, providing a context for the Holocaust and its aftermath.
“The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem strongly believes that education is the number one instrument to creating a more tolerant society and compassionate community,” says Ashkenazi.
“Over the past eight years, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem has sent more than 100 educators to attend the seminar. The Hechts have been responsible for  17 of those.”

Alice Herscovitch, the executive director of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, expressed her appreciation to the local sponsors to make such a program possible. She  welcomed them to use her Centre upon returning, something which many of the past winners have done – notably putting non-Jewish students in contact with Holocaust survivors.  “Basically, the program makes it possible for educators, who are already committed to Holocaust education and are often using the Centre's resources such as the museum and pedagogical tools while doing creative and important work in this field, to develop further knowledge and understanding,” she said. “They become more confident and expert in Holocaust education and resources for their schools and school boards. These individuals return and often invest their learning and interest in the Montreal Holocaust Centre. As examples two graduates will be presenting at our Teachers Conference next October 27 and two others are now members.”

Lipstein said  that he is grateful for this opportunity. “I am very much looking forward to all of  the lectures that the program will offer,” he says. “I have a strong passion for Jewish history and culture. Hence, the opportunity to learn more about my people's plight during the Shoah is a very sensitive matter for me, and one that I treat with the utmost respect. As a music teacher, I am most interested in the session which will discuss the music of the Holocaust.  I cannot thank the Hechts and the sponsors enough for this program.”

Adds Blumer: “Knowledge is power, and as a social studies teacher this opportunity will inspire me to educate students for years to come. May the Holocaust never be forgotten nor repeated.”

Edgar says that she  taught the Holocaust through the story of Anne Frank for a number of years. “I am excited about the opportunity to expand my teaching effectively and meaningfully through the expert teachings at Yad Vashem,” she remarked. “ I am looking forward to this impacting upon me both personally and professionally. What we will learn and experience will be so profound and important that it cannot help but change you!  Through all of my years studying the Holocaust, I have been waiting for the opportunity to be eligible to apply for this scholarship and I was thrilled beyond words to be granted this opportunity. I have been reading the suggested books every evening and am grateful and excited beyond words for this experience. I am also very much excited to work with teachers who also teach about the Holocaust to explore how they implement this into the curriculum. I too have ideas and approaches as implementing this area of study at the Grades 5 and 6 levels requires careful consideration and planning.”

Barbiero noted that he is eager for this learning experience to begin. “I look forward to the many lectures and field trips,” he said. “While I know this will be a solemn experience, I am looking forward to meeting survivors and hearing of their struggles.”
Provost  teaches at École Secondaire Thérèse-Martin in Joliette, which has a student population of  1,700 . “I applied for the scholarship because I have been teaching English as a second language in high school for 17 years now and it was only when I started talking about the Holocaust to my students that I felt that they were really interested and amazed and had plenty to ask and say,” she notes. “I realize that I have become a better teacher since using the Holocaust as a theme, but also a better person because I think that I show my students how important it is to respect people around us. As the mother of an autistic child, I know firsthand what intolerance and judgment can do to someone and I simply cannot accept to be a by-stander and not do anything. That is why I created a project called A Penny For a Soul.

With my students, we are trying to raise 1.5 million pennies, one for each child murdered during the Holocaust, which represents  $15, 000$ We will donate that money to the Holocaust Center to help them create activities that will raise awareness and teach tolerance to children.  I am proud to say that we have raised our first one thousand dollars this year, only in pennies and we have plans to do more elaborate things next school year to reach our goal faster.

As for the trip itself, Provost says she expects to learn more,  become a better human being and an even better role-model, teach her students about tolerance and create a network of new friends and partnerships. She would also like this to serve as  an opportunity to expand  A Penny For a Soul worldwide!

Frenette teaches at   École Marie-Clarac Secondaire, a private Catholic high school for  over 400 girls in Montreal.    She took some courses related to Jewish history at the Université de Montréal and a friend of hers taught at a private orthodox Jewish school for girls in Outremont. That friend came to speak to her students about the difference between the life of girls who are orthodox Jews and  Catholics. At École Marie-Clarac Secondaire she and some colleagues manage a program dealing with the Holocaust. “We  teach about World War II and the historical facts about Holocaust.   In French  we read the Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt novel La part de l'autre, which is an alternate history about Adolf Hitler.  With this novel, the students can understand how we can become a good or a bad person and which experiences could bring us to the dark side of humanity.”

As a history teacher, Frenette says this trip is a dream come true. “I'm so excited to go back to university and to take history classes  in Jerusalem,” she said. “As a teacher, I expect to get back to school in September with good materials to improve our lessons , especially concerning the project I am already working on.”

Herscovitch is particularly pleased that  Moison will be part of the group. She is a teacher by profession,  having done so at  the Université de Montréal and Université de Laval and has   a PhD in history and citizenship education. She spent five years giving courses to future teachers.  At the Centre she  develops material to teach about the Holocaust and she is also in charge of teachers’ professional development regarding Holocaust Education.

Riva and Thomas Hecht

Riva Hecht lectured in the Department of Education at Concordia University for over 20 years.  During that time, she held the positions of director of the graduate program in Adult Education and coordinator of the undergraduate programs in Adult Education.  In addition to her teaching and administrative responsibilities at Concordia, she represented adult education interests in the formal sector on many government committees; most recently as a member of the Advisory Board on English Education at the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports. In 2003 she was a delegate to the Study Mission to Europe on Lifelong Learning, a mission sponsored by the Quebec Government for the English-speaking formal education sector. 

During her tenure at Concordia, she coordinated and helped mount conferences, workshops and seminars of interest to adult educators and learners.  She has edited the proceedings of several of conferences and has written workbooks, manuals and articles on issues related to adult learning.

She is a former member of the Project Selection Committee of the Quebec Community Groups Network and has sat on this committee since its inception.  As a founding member of the Quebec Association for Adult Learning, she was an active member of the board for many years.  She served on several committees and conducted research examining the needs and interests of adult educators working in English-speaking communities in Quebec.

Thomas O. Hecht was born in Czechoslovakia in 1929 and escaped from Europe during World War II, arriving in Canada in 1942. He was educated at the High School of Montreal and pursued his undergraduate and graduate studies at Concordia and McGill universities.  He subsequently lectured for nine years at Concordia University in the field of International Relations, Political Philosophy and Comparative Government, and has since lectured at several North American universities. He is a world traveller ,  proficient in six languages, a longstanding leader in the  Canadian Jewish community and a successful  businessman in the biotechnology sector.

In 1956, he joined the family owned pharmaceutical company, Continental Pharma, started by his father in Czechoslovakia in 1929. Thomas Hecht succeeded his father as president in 1958. Under his direction, Continental Pharma Cryosan Inc. became an important international health care products and medical research company operating in Canada, the United States and Europe. Mr. Hecht's activities have had a major impact on the orientation and direction of the world's plasma-based health care industry.  



Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213