Middle School Holocaust Education

The students’ Middle School experience builds directly on their experiences in the Lower School, tying the study and understanding of the Holocaust to broad themes such as commemorating and memorializing, and understanding the role that choices we make can have on the way history unfolds. Students learn about and explore the Holocaust as their story, the story of the Jewish people, and learn to become empowered by a narrative as they come to understand that as a Jewish people, we are obligated to understand human nature and to build a better world. This springboards students into deeply relevant and meaningful conversations around race and membership, combating hatred, and the critical importance of living with empathy. 

Students in sixth grade visit Daniel’s Story at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) as part of a signature family education experience. They explore the impact of the Holocaust on identity, linking it to the broader curriculum in 6th grade which focuses on identity. Students discuss the personal nature of the Holocaust as a Jewish experience, and compare our engagement with that of non-Jews, who are the intended audience of the museum and Daniel’s story. Students observe additional elements used to commemorate - exploring the architecture of the museum as part of the story, reflecting the architect’s lived experience. Students share their own family stories of the Holocaust and express the impact it has on their own identities. Parents/Guardians are invited to tour the USHMM on the same day as their sixth graders to explore the themes the students are learning and discuss how each family will engage with the Museum and the Holocaust going forward.

Members of the Middle School choir singing Eli Eli at the USHMM

In seventh grade, students learn the Holocaust as a shared memory of the Jewish people, as a lens through which to analyze choices made, and as a way of helping construct a healthier, better world than existed 75 years ago. Framed by Facing History and Ourselves Holocaust and Human Behavior Curriculum, students explore the concepts of “we” and “they” and use the Holocaust as a case study to explore human behavior.

Eighth graders read Elie Wiesel’s Night  in their English classes as an example of memoir, and use what they have learned of Wiesel’s experience and of the Holocaust as a frame of reference for understanding the concepts of race and membership in the United States. The Holocaust offers a framework for us as Jews to understand our people’s history and for us as Americans whose country has experienced racial injustice. The eighth grade capstone trip to the South is made ever more relevant by their understanding of symbols and memorials and of the concepts of vulnerability, bystander and upstander.