Today was the first day of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center's (FSWC) Eastern Ontario-Quebec trip with the Tour for Humanity, which will take us from our current location of Gloucester (East Ottawa) to Brockville, Cornwall, Chesterville, and finally to Montreal. It was a great start to the trip and FSWC Educator Elena was given a very warm welcome by the Principal at the middle school where we were visiting today. The school has 11 classes in total so Elena is returning tomorrow to work with the rest of the students. Today, she had 5 workshops of Grades 6,7 and 8 students and all participated in the Canadian Experience workshop. Our program was a great follow-up to the fact that literally the entire school was privileged to hear testimony from Holocaust Survivor Dr. Eva Olsson last week. This was an excellent primer for the broader look at the facts in the Tour for Humanity program because they began with an emotional connection to what Elena was discussing with real human beings. The students also had a good base of knowledge about the residential school system in Canada.
Elena was blown away by many students' curiosity about the Holocaust and World War II. One student wanted to know all about how Jewish people responded to Nazi persecution. "How could they tell who was Jewish? Did any Jews convert to another religion to try to hide their Jewish identity?" These questions led another student to ask the age-old quandary- "What exactly does it mean to be Jewish? Are Jews a race?" Elena gave the students some brief facts about Jewish identity and history and the fact that it is a combination of religion, culture, language and ethnicity.