This past June, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa received a call from a concerned teacher who had witnessed some anti-Semitic behaviour in his schoolyard and was anxious to deal with it appropriately. “Duck, Duck, Goose” had turned into “Jew, Jew, Nazi,” and “Capture the Flag,” had become “Capture the Jew.” The teacher quickly recognized that his Grade 6 class was in need of some ‘emergency’ Holocaust education, as the school year was coming to an end, and he did not want his class graduating without addressing this ignorant behaviour.
The Shoah Committee quickly mobilized, responding to the urgency of the situation, identifying survivors, speakers, and age-appropriate educational material to support this teacher. The mandate of the Shoah (Holocaust) Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa is to commemorate and preserve the legacies of the past to learn from and teach future generations about the important lessons of this horrific event. This was an educational opportunity that could not be lost. The results were positive and the school and student body were receptive. We know we made a difference in teaching these students about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
November marks Holocaust Education Month (HEM) and Ottawa’s organizations have developed a wide range of programming to encourage Jewish and non-Jewish participants to learn and better understand the lessons of the Holocaust.
The Shoah Committee is holding two events. The first will be on Sunday, November 19 and is a wonderful example of successful partnerships as the Shoah Committee, along with the Embassy of the Philippines and the City of Ottawa, will be screening the documentary “Rescue in the Philippines.” This film provides a unique perspective of survival, and will be shown at Ben Franklin Place in Centrepointe at 4:30 pm, followed by a light reception. You can reserve your seat by contacting Natalie Abenhaim at 613-798-4696, ext. 355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the theme of sharing lesser-known stories, on Wednesday, November 29, the Shoah Committee will host author and acclaimed speaker Robert Watson at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre at 7 pm. Watson will share the story of his award-winning book, The Nazi Titanic. A renowned lecturer and storyteller, Watson will explain how a luxury ocean liner was transformed into the Titanic for a Nazi propaganda film and later turned into a death trap for prisoners, when it was mistakenly bombed by the British, days before liberation.
On a personal note, as a child of survivors, my father being the lone survivor of a multigenerational Czech Jewish family, I was taught to be tolerant, respectful, and to refrain from making negative generalizations about any one group of people – no matter how tempting. The Shoah Committee takes responsibility for what it can do in the face of increasing anti-Semitism, scapegoating, and xenophobia, by reaching out to the community with educational opportunities that combat ignorance and hatred.
Together, as a community, we can be better informed and understand that the lessons of the Holocaust can be used to create greater acceptance and tolerance among all people until “Never Again,” becomes a reality. We hope that you will join us and participate in Holocaust Education Month this November.
Visit https://jewishottawa.com/HEM for a full listing of Holocaust Education Month events.