Defining lessons : the Holocaust in American Jewish education / by Rona Sheramy.
“Defining Lessons” conducts the first in-depth historical inquiry into the study and teaching of the Holocaust in American Jewish primary and secondary schools, summer camps, and youth groups. It traces postwar Jewish educators' changing perceptions of the place and function of the Holocaust in the Jewish school program and explains why, fifty years after the end of World War II, these educators—teachers, principals, curriculum writers, and pedagogical theorists—came to think knowledge of the Holocaust was critical to the development and self-perception of American Jewish children. I argue that from the 1940s through the 1990s, Holocaust education in the American Jewish community was a function of the broader goal of American Jewish education: promoting a positive Jewish identity in Jewish youth. The movement of the Holocaust from the periphery to the mainstream of Jewish education arose out of educators' efforts to reconcile American and Jewish ideals, interests, and values. Through the creation of curricula, textbooks, and rituals, Jewish educators from the 1940s through the 1990s were engaged in shaping American Jews' conceptions of the Holocaust and the Jewish past. Jewish educational narratives of the Holocaust thus shed light on the evolution of American Jewish understanding of the European Jewish catastrophe. Furthermore, given that the responsibility for fostering Jewish identity in the postwar period fell largely on Jewish educational institutions, these institutions are ideal sites for investigating the movement of the Holocaust to the center of American Jewish life. Scholars have traditionally assessed American Jewish Holocaust consciousness by analyzing the output of the Jewish elite (religious, political, intellectual, and artistic leaders) in the public realm. While highlighting the responses to the Holocaust of an important segment of American Jewry, this approach overlooks understanding of the Holocaust on a popular, quotidian level. Drawing from the papers of teachers, administrators, and educational theorists; the records of schools, camps, and educational organizations; and curricula, children's literature, and textbooks, “Defining Lessons” illuminates such folk perceptions, promoting a more nuanced and comprehensive assessment of the place of the Holocaust in American Jewish life.
Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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