Lower School Holocaust Education

Programming in the Lower School is designed around three core enduring understandings, which carry through a child’s education to 12th grade:

  • The Holocaust was a deeply personal and collective experience of the Jewish People, one which left a lasting mark on individuals and on the Jewish people.
  • The memories of the Holocaust are part of the fabric of Jewish history and, therefore, are part of Jewish collective memory. 
  • As Jews, we mark the memory of the Holocaust annually on Yom HaShoah v’Hagvurah.

In the Lower School, Yom HaShoah is marked annually with a memorial at the entrance to the building, consisting of memorial posters and six yahrzeit (memorial) candles. We draw attention to the day as part of the morning announcements and as each class lights a memorial candle in their classroom space and participates in the Moment of Silence. Shoah education plays a role in the broader education around Jewish ritual and practice, as students learn that the ner zikaron, or memorial candle, is a symbol of remembrance. Students participate in a school assembly to mark the day communally. 

Fourth and fifth grade students engage more directly with the study of the Holocaust as part of their Yom HaShoah v’Hag’vurah experience. Fourth graders read Number the Stars, a historical fiction account of the Holocaust by Lois Lowry, as an examplar historical fiction text. On Yom HaShoah v’Hag’vurah, fourth graders watch a dramatic reading of HaMagirah HaShlishit Shel Saba by Judy Tal Kopelman, a Hebrew story of a child who learns of their grandfather’s Holocaust experience when they finally open “the forbidden drawer,” a space in his home where he keeps artifacts of his life in the ghetto. Students discuss the story in their classes, learning that the Holocaust was an incredibly difficult and catastrophic period in the lives of families and that it is often something that many can’t even speak about and that it was relatively recent. Students explore the idea of artifacts as evidence of the atrocities of the Holocaust. 

In fifth grade, students engage more directly with artifacts of the Holocaust which both personalize and bring to life the experience of the Shoah. Using artifacts on loan from The Philip Newman Artifact Collection, students curate a museum exhibit and serve as docents for one another. Students reflect together on this experience as part of a larger program which includes their t’filah service for the day being focused on Yom HaShoah v’Hag’vurah, reciting mourner’s kaddish and prayers for peace, the museum experience, and reflection activities that accompany both parts of their learning.