Today FSWC participated in the Simcoe County District School Board's PD day focusing on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Midhurst, north of Barrie. Our educators held a special 2-hour workshop on antisemitism for teachers from many schools across the board, a topic SCDSB felt was of immediate concern in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Simcoe County District School Board recently joined our recognition of January 27th, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and it was great to see the board taking further steps to make sure educators are aware of the importance of the Holocaust and other examples of antisemitism past and present.
FSWC educator Elena spent the first half of the workshop reflecting on antisemitism as “the oldest hatred in human history”, looking back to antiquity and moving through the centuries to cover topics including the destruction of the temples by the Romans, accusations of Deicide, blood libel, anti-Jewish violence during the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, economic antisemitism, and the racial-nationalistic antisemitism of the 19th-20th centuries culminating the Holocaust. We looked at examples of antisemitic propaganda from the Nazi era to draw connections with the different strains of antisemitic discourse.
The second hour was spent discussing antisemitism in the present-day. We talked about anti-Zionism and the BDS movement, Holocaust denial, as well as antisemitic conspiracy theories that have been given new life by white supremacists in the digital age. The teachers were more vocal during this part of the workshop, sharing their own observations and concerns, particularly around the current political atmosphere in the USA. Teachers also shared their own strategies for teaching students about the Holocaust and persistence of antisemitism.
Meanwhile, Tour for Humanity spent the day at a local high school in Whitby, working with grade 9-12 students over 4 workshops. Immediately after the first workshop, a student stayed behind to speak to FSWC Educator Daniella in private. The student essentially just wanted to comment privately that it made him sad to think of all the genocides that have happened since the Holocaust, and how the world has not learned very much. Daniella agreed with him and then reiterated how important it was for him to stand up for something and make that difference in the world. The following 3 workshops consisted of students asking a lot of questions. One student wanted confirmation that Jewish people were targeted long before the Holocaust, which lead to an explanation that this was indeed true, and through a brief history of antisemitism.