Wiesenthal Education Weekly - May 20, 2020

May 20, 2020


Wiesenthal Education Weekly
For Educators, Parents & Students
May 20, 2020

May is Jewish Heritage Month!

Throughout the month of May, the Education Team will be bringing you Jewish Heritage Month resources to use with students, through virtual learning or with your own families.

Visit FSWC's Jewish Heritage Month website for in-depth activities and resources or download the PDF here

Four Questions with..

Lauren Klar, BA, CYW | YRDSB Child and Youth Care Worker

How can parents best support their children to ensure meaningful learning throughout COVID-19?

The transition to online learning can be a challenge for some children. To make this transition as smooth as possible, parents can establish a daily routine and structure for their children. Keeping routines consistent and making choices that foster physical and emotional well-being, such as physical activity, healthy eating, normal sleep routines, and limiting the use of screens can help children to manage during these uncertain times. If parents are struggling with helping their children with their learning, they should reach out to their child’s teacher who may be able to offer resources. However, it’s important that parents not put so much pressure on themselves. This transition is a learning process for everyone, and all that matters at this time is that children are learning as best as they can.

How might COVID-19 impact student anxiety?

Some students may not completely understand the reasons as to why schools and extracurricular activities are closed. The change in daily routine and structure, in addition to being separated from friends, teachers, and other caregivers can be anxiety provoking. Many have had significant events cancelled or postponed, especially those who are set to graduate. For these students, the feeling of isolation and the unknown can cause significant distress. Additionally, information seen on social media and from family and friends can cause alarm and panic. Students may be so worried about their own health and that of their loved ones that this begins to impact them on a daily basis. They may become very attached to their parents and/or caregivers, and may not be able to focus on their online learning.

What steps can teachers take to support the mental health of students?

While supporting the health and safety of students is a priority during this time, it’s also important for teachers to attend to the social and emotional well-being of their students. This is crucial for all students, as those who may not have been considered at-risk before the COVID-19 outbreak may now be going through mental health challenges. Teachers can do daily or weekly check ins with students to monitor their mental health, assess how they are coping with the current situation, and offer support and resources. This can be done through email, online learning platforms, or calling students directly by phone. Connecting with students on a personal level is meaningful, as it lets them know that they are valued and are still part of a school community despite the physical distance. Incorporating self-care and mindfulness activities into lessons can also be helpful for students who may be struggling.

Do you think students will have trouble adjusting to a rigid classroom setting after being off for this period? What can teachers do to ensure their successful re-integration?

I don’t believe that students will have too much trouble adjusting to a rigid classroom setting after being out of school for an extended period of time. Just like after summer break, once they settle back into the routine of going to school and being in class I believe that they will be able to do just fine. I think that there will be a mix of students who are excited to return to normalcy and to see their friends, and those who are nervous to return due to COVID-19. The biggest adjustment for students will be all the new health and safety precautions that will be put in place to ensure the safety of all staff and students. Ontario hasn’t yet released any information regarding what this would look like, but I presume that schools will facilitate both physical distancing and hygiene protocols. This may include designated entrances and exits for different grades, floor markings to direct traffic flow and help maintain distance, and hand-sanitizing stations at entrances and common areas.

To ensure successful re-integration, teachers will need to take the time to properly explain the new health and safety changes that will be implemented. Teachers will have to be patient and expect that this may take some time for students to get used to. Furthermore, it’s important that teachers provide emotional support to students once they return to school. During the first few weeks back, social emotional programming can be a helpful way to help those students who may have had a difficult time during the school closures or those who are nervous to be back in class. While academics are of course important, there will have to be some time scheduled during the day for students to express their thoughts and emotions, learn ways to manage their emotions, develop the skills to be empathetic and compassionate, and work on building resiliency.

What My Jewish Heritage Means To Me

Jordan Desai
FSWC Education Associate

My grandfather is Canadian born, but his family immigrated to Canada from Poland in the 1920s with little difficulty. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a refugee who came to Canada during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution after all of her family, with the exception of her mother, perished in the Holocaust. Upon her arrival, she and her mother were greatly aided by local Jewish organizations in Toronto. Historically, Jewish people have looked out for one another.

To me, being Jewish entails much more than the religion itself. I grew up a part of the Jewish community, I went to Jewish overnight camp, I had a Bat Mitzvah, and at the age of twenty-one, I embarked on a trip to Israel which is my birthright as a young Jewish woman.

Though my family always marked the high holidays, I did not grow up in a particularly religious household. Jewish traditions, Jewish heritage, and the Jewish community has and continues to be an important part of my life, my character, and my history.

While I was in university, I developed a strong passion for 20th century Canadian history and more specifically, understanding the Canadian Jewish community during that period. My MA provided me with the opportunity to research and write on this topic to best understand how Jewish people have been viewed and understood in the larger context of Canadian history both historically and presently. My MA taught me the valuable lesson that as a young Canadian Jewish woman, it is my responsibility to research and write the history of Canada’s Jewry in order to preserve our unique history for future generations.

After graduating with my graduate degree in history, I began working as an education associate at FSWC. Every day, I have the opportunity to teach the importance of learning history. In my teachings, I emphasize the Holocaust, and other historical atrocities, tie together how the past connects us to the present. As we embark on Jewish Heritage Month, I emphasize, that you do not need to be Jewish to celebrate. Paying tribute to the Jewish community, notable Jewish figures, the Jewish religion, and Jewish traditions serve to enrich our knowledge about the people who exist around us. This month, we are given a unique opportunity to explore the role that Jewish people continue to play on a local, national, and global scale.

What does Tzedakah Mean to You?

Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for acts of charity. The root word tzedek actually means justice, fairness or righteousness and the performance of these acts of charity is seen as an essential part of living a Jewish life. Charitable acts are not just something ‘nice’ to do but a spiritual obligation in Jewish life. One of the greatest Jewish philosophers in history, a man named Maimonides, developed a moral framework and hierarchy for understanding tzedakah where the highest form of charity is the giving of a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient becoming self-sufficient instead of relying upon others. Maimonides also promoted the idea that providing charity anonymously is a very powerful form of tzedakah.

Many families make their own tzedakah boxes, decorating cans and other recycled containers, and make a habit of putting money in them before Shabbat. When they are full the money is taken out and given to a person or organization in need.

Have students create their own tzedakah box. Students can research a charitable cause they are interested in or want to learn more about (climate change, Indigenous Rights, homelessness, violence against women, etc.). Students can then take a recycled container from home and decorate in a way that reflects their interests/the cause they want to donate to. Students can then begin collecting money from family and community members. When their tzedakah box is full, it’s time to donate to their chosen charity!
Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is tzedakah important for the giver and the receiver?
  2. How can I be involved in tzedakah?
  3. What other religions place spiritual importance on giving to charity?


Kindness Counts Challenge

During these uncertain times, the team at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center continues to be dedicated to community advocacy. While practicing safe social distancing, FSWC Associate Director of Education Daniella spent an afternoon sewing masks to help keep members of the community safe and healthy.

Our team nominates YOU to participate in our Kindness Counts Challenge and take a photo of you performing a good deed using the hashtag #FSWCares to be featured on our page. Remember, all it takes is one person to make a big difference!

Human Rights @ Home

Introducing Human Rights @ Home, FSWC's new online workshop series. FSWC educators will facilitate one-hour programs via Zoom. Public workshops take place from 3:00pm - 4:00pm EST Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

The workshop offerings change weekly so please consult the workshop schedule.

Contact education@fswc.ca to register today.

Zoom invitations will be sent out prior to each workshop.

Lessons and Legacy of the Holocaust: “The Holocaust is not just a Jewish story, but a human story.” Explore the history of the Holocaust and the attitudes and social forces that enabled one of the darkest periods of human history to occur. Suitable for grade 7+.

Digital Hate: The internet can function as a forum for progress and social change, but also as a vehicle to spread hate and intolerance. Issues such as cyberbullying, digital hate and the real life consequences of these increasingly dangerous and growing trends are investigated. Suitable for grade 4+.

Roots of Hate & Intolerance: Canada, often described as a diverse cultural mosaic, is not free from hatred and intolerance. Racism, antisemitism and prejudice are examined, as well as how these issues impact students and their communities. Real historical and contemporary examples of hate are used as a means of creating awareness and promoting dialogue and positive action. Suitable for grade 6+.

Genocide & The Power of Action: Genocide is defined and investigated through Gregory Stanton’s 10 Stages theoretical framework. Three case studies are applied to allow students to build an understanding of where theory intersects with reality. Suitable for grade 8+.

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