Friday, April 25, 2014

The Shoah Nursery Curriculum

Synagogue bombing in the Ukaraine
Neo-Nazi shooting in Kansas.
The official inclusion of the declared terrorist group Hamas into the Palestinian governing coalition.

You don't need to look far for signs and symptoms of the growing boldness of the anti-Semitic movements all over the worlds.  Hatred of the Jews did not disappear after the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel, it just got quieter in some places, more subtle for a while.

Well, the Ministry of Education in Israel (under the guidance of Yad Vashem) has unveiled their new curriculum, mandatory Holocaust studies for all Israeli children from the age of five.

It's a good thing that there will be seminars for teachers as to what extent the material should be presented, depending on the age group.  My friend AA told me that several years ago,  her daughter was taught that Hitler committed suicide in his bunker at the end of the war.  Her daughter was in Pre 1A at the time, five years old...AA noted that living in Israel, death becomes a central theme much earlier as compared to other Western and developed countries, leading up to the initiation into the army at age 18.

Given Raphaela's reaction to the death and destruction of the Biblical story of the Ten Plagues of Pessach, I am most curious regarding the proposed curriculum:

"...the program also includes the Jewish-Zionist legacy and the human-universalist will become a part of the collective memory of the Jewish people."

"...before the siren [on Yom HaShoah], it should be explained to [kindergarten] children that this was a difficult period that happened many years ago - a period even before the children and their parents were born.  There will also be an emphasis on the physical distance IE it happened in distant lands."

"...frightening content based on physical demonstrations should be avoided."

"We recommend telling the human stories to the children; on the hand to learn about what was lost - communities, families, people, cultural assets, concepts and opinions - and on the other to hear stories about coping, heroism and rescue."

The goal, apparently, is to transmit the material appropriately, granting the lessons of history gravity while allowing kindergarten children to feel safe and protected.

Unfortunately, 1945 was not all that many years ago, and the revival of anti-Semitism is too close for comfort.


Midlife Singlemum said...

My 5yo makes no differentiation between Hitler (who she heard about in gan this week), Pharoah, Ahashverosh and the Roman soldiers. Her main focus on Yom Hashoah was how to stand for the siren - explicit instructions about standing straight and not wiggling about. But, as a friend of mine put it, it is in her mind already so it can be expanded upon appropriately at each age.

Doc said...

Here's my problem with this view of history of the Jews: There are always the good guys and the bad guys (Pharoah, Hamam, Achashverosh, Idi Amin, Hitler, etc.) and each story seems to reinforce the idea that we should not get too comfortable, because there will always be someone lurking, waiting to kill us off.

I wish there were more emphasis on our own ability to protect ourselves and fight back, and the important element of faith and survival.

Or as someone said to the me the other day, in his succinct summary of our holidays: Someone tried to kill us, we survived, we eat.