Global, Identity, Mishegas, Politics

Students Traumatized by "Jew for a Day" Activity

Central Florida’s Local 6 reports,

Several parents in Apopka, Fla., are upset over a surprise school “Holocaust” project that some say tormented children, according to a Local 6 News report.
Local 6 News reported that eighth-graders with last names beginning with L through Z at Apopka Memorial Middle School were given yellow five-pointed stars for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Other students were privileged, the report said.
Father John Tinnelly said his son was forced to stand in the back of the classroom and not allowed to sit because he was wearing the yellow star.
“He was forced to go to the back of the lunch line four times by an administrator,” Tinnelly said.
Tinnelly said the experiment upset his child.
“He was crying,” Tinnelly said. “I said, ‘What are you crying about?’ He said, ‘Daddy, I was a Jew today.'”

Full story.

32 thoughts on “Students Traumatized by "Jew for a Day" Activity

  1. hmmm…this reminds me of when the counselors at our Jewish sleep away camp dressed as Ku Klux Klanners and took us out into the woods where the had a bonfire. i think it was a lesson on intolerance, but i really still have no idea what i learned. kind of sick.

  2. It is well known, and not just in the Jewish world:
    This is exactly how NOT to engage in Holocaust education.

  3. at my jew camp (well, socialist jew camp) we would have simulations of various things, not always specifically the holocaust, but making kids feel inequality first hand always worked out really well. kids were upset, but they came out of the experience with a very different perspective, and an understaning of just how terrible it is to discriminated against.

  4. Dara,
    What private Jewish camps can do is different than what public schools should do.
    We have to stop insisting that our Holocaust focus is incumbent on all Americans and is primary to their education.

  5. apopka is in my old ‘hood, and even tho’ they seem to have botched this particular job, it’s definitely a sign of progress that SOMEONE there is trying to do ANY sort of Holocaust Ed in central Florida whatsoever. CF is this weird meeting grounds between Southern hillbillies and Nothern/Midwestern hyper-PC-ness (with a liberal dose of white middle class cluelessness thrown in), but i never got a single shred of Holocaust Ed when i was growing up. at least they’re moving in that direction now…

  6. They could easily adopt the “Facing History and Ourselves” curriculum and textbook, which is written for middle schools. The private school I worked at uses it and it’s terrific. What they did is horrific. Now the kids will have the lasting memory that they “don’t want to be Jewish.” What a message.

  7. Ruby K,
    To me it is the same thing. Holocaustism is a theology of secular Jewry. It therefore has no place in the public school system.
    I got it — and in a school with very, very few Jews.
    Not everyone had the same reaction you might expect they should. In fact, seeing those films and witnessing the reaction of many was one of the worst aspects of attending an almost all gentile public school.
    Maybe we Jews should first examine what the real possibilities of holocaust education for everyone are in terms of reaction.
    But no — that would mean conceding we don’t know everything.
    Jews seem to know that Holocaust education for all will lead to a better world.
    I saw it first hand. I believe something different.
    Best of luck with this stuff. You will need it. It won’t lead to what you want it to lead to.

  8. DK — you’re probably right. I had enough problems as a non-practicing, non-identifying Jew in a public school without everyone learning about the Holocaust in some mandatory way to give them more fuel for cracks and pranks.

  9. Here’s is the point every single one of you has missed. It is not the separating out of a part of the class that is the problem. Had these kids worn white circles and been called martians, the same point would have been made, and no one would have been crying.
    the real “shanda” here is the use of the word JEW. You should also know, that i got kicked off the governor’s Holocaust Ed. commission in NJ about 23 years ago when I objected to then playing of Judenrat and Gestapo in the Teaneck-Vineland Holocaust curriculum, one of the first in the country.
    They were teaching students to discriminate against each other, and blaming the Jews for sending Jews to the deportations. Now who do you supposed would put such stuff in a classroom?
    The ADL.
    So they hanged the messenger.

  10. i too am a verteran of labor zionist/socialist summer camp. we had all sorts of simulations. when i was fairly young we had “yom capitalism” on which all kids were assigned economic classes. i was in the largest group–poor. there was a smaller group of middle class people and a smaller group yet of rich people. we had all sorts of contests. the one i remember most vividly was one where we had to transfer several gallons of water from one large container to another about 50 feet away. the poor folks got spoons, the middle-class ladels, and the rich large bowls. more and more events like this happened and eventually due to some clever and well executed manipulation by the counselors the poor people refused to participate in the system of overthrew it. this had been the plan from the get go.
    my progressive parents asked me about it later in the summer when i was home again. i explained the system. they asked me what i had learned. “that you ought to make sure you are rich”.
    in time i have come to look back fondly on the program and many others like it that hit me with important lessons as a kid. as a counselor years later i used many similar devices myself. the most important thing i learned upon becoming a madrich is that the most important part of planning and educational activity is not figuring out the body of it but rather how you will do the closure discussion in a way that will bring out the important concepts and help the most important take-aways stick. seems like that was what was missing. the school did a good job at investing a lot of emotion in their simulation and creating a sticky moment, they just did no follow-up or debriefing to help kids understand the point of it all. as much as that was a missed oppurtunity, perhaps the kids, like me, will look back on the lesson as important with the advantage of other erxperiances later in their lives.

  11. I am opposed to the type of exercise. It does not teach students about persecution, and surely not about what the Jews experienced. Trivilalizing the Shoah has become a tradition in America. We collect six million pennies, 11 million paper clips and send a chain letter on the Internet to remind us of the Holocaust. The Nazis stripped Jews of their names and gave them numbers. When we remember human beings as pennies and paper clips, we take away their humanity, dignity and individuality. The Jews wanted us to remember what happened to them as individuals, communities and as a people. They wanted us to understand the moral dilemmas they faced-not only the way they died.
    In Sacred Fire, the Rebbe of Piacenza, Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapira, one of the last Chassidic rebbes of Eastern Europe, urged that his responses to the Shoah be printed and pleaded with “every individual Jew to study” them. His work and other religious texts from the Shoah allow us to examine the religious and spiritual response to the Holocaust, to extrapolate material, which can influence people today.
    A survivor in a city where I was speaking casually mentioned to me that he did not think that in ten years the Shoah would be taught any longer. This was especially surprising since the man had invested significant amounts of money in Holocaust education in his city. Had this pessimistic assessment come from anyone else, I might have simply dismissed his remarks as absurd. With the proliferation of Holocaust centers and museums throughout the world, there is little chance that this might happen. Yet this astute man instinctively perceived a trend that others have noticed-the quality and nature of Holocaust education is changing with a number of schools having decided not to teach the subject any longer.
    With the passing of the generation of survivors, it is imperative to find a way to go beyond focusing on the process of destruction. To make the Shoah relevant, and respect the wishes of those who perished, we need to teach how Jews lived and the moral dilemmas they faced throughout the period. Much of what we do is to promote victimology as the core of Jewish identity.
    Alex Grobman, Ph.D.

  12. My second grade teacher did almost exactly this experiment to teach us about segregation with me and a few other students playing the African-Americans. We had to sit at a different table, stand in the back of line, play separately during gym, and so on.
    I was in tears by the end of the day, and refused to continue the experiment. And I barely ever cried as a child. I actually remember yelling at the teacher through my tears that I didn’t want to be Black anymore.
    I think the lesson is borderline unethical, because it is very traumatic for a child to suddenly be placed in that position. We were not prepared for it in any way. It came off as a punishment, and I didn’t know what I had done wrong.
    Nevertheless, I have to be honest and say that it is one of the most memorable moments of my education and had a profound effect on me. Nothing makes you more cognizant of what segregation is than actually experiencing it.

  13. id agree with zt. i far from think it was the main program that was the problem, infact i see little wrong with it. the idea that kids will come away from it, like michelle said, thinking “that they dont want to be jewish”, would only be the case if it was not completed with a full discussion of what they had learned and actually linking it to the Holocaust. in that respect, their program failed. im pretty sure they have the right idea though. so what if they cry for half an hour, its not something theyre going to forget, and it promotes discussion of discrimintion, and the wee bit of “play” discrimination they faced for a day will go a long way in my opinion.

  14. “Who the hell came up with this brilliant sensitivity training program?”
    I saw this idea before in a Social Psych course. It was developed by a freaky lady called Jane Elliott who pioneered the “Blue Eye / Brown Eye experiment” where the “Blue Eyes” were made subhuman. Tears ensued. Elliot, or as I call her “Ilsa, She-wolf of the Nazi Love Camp”, claimed nobel intentions, but it was clear to me from watching the tape that she was getting into her role too much, and it was disturbing as all hell.
    Good description here :

  15. zt-
    my camp has yom capitalism too, and as madricha I definitely know the importance of a wrap-up discussion. unfortunately a labor zionist youth movement committed to informal education is a lot better at conducting such discussions than a public middle school. but either way, i do think that sometimes making the kids suffer for a little bit will help them to understand what oppression means in the long term. its terrible that that is the only way, but its a reality educators have to deal with.
    of course we should keep teaching about the holocuast in public schools, because we should always teach about bigotry, and about genocide. it needs to be discussed in the context of other genocides, and other groups of people who have been discirminated against (inlcuding non-jews in the holocaust).

  16. Dara,
    I don’t think these curriculums are always properly thought out in their entirety, nor do they always provoke the reaction intended. I saw them fail. Holocaust documentaries were in the horror section of my local video store, because that was who wanted to see them.
    The Jewish community is often both naive and duplicitous about its goals for genocide education. Not a recipe for success. Most of my friends who grew up in less genteel and less Jewish areas feel like I do. I have found that our resistance to public school Holocaust education is looked upon with disbelief by many in the Jewish community who grew up in more affluent and more Jewish areas.
    If the mainstream Jewish community won’t listen to us, it seems even more likely that they also fail to adequately detect the more hostile backlash that many gentiles have to the Americanization of the Holocaust and other (secondary — always secondary — we come first, at least in terms of crimes outside the U.S., and even before the Native Americans and slavery, — whose National Museum was first? Ours, of course.) genocide education they receive.

  17. Sounds like some teacher was watching the “Diversity Day” episode of “The Office” and took it the wrong way.

  18. I agree, that, as per Facing History and Ourselves-type curriculum, this type of exercise, when bookended appropriately, is helpful to [white] Americans in understanding the Holocaust (or other historical instances of discrimination and genocide), in the context of other historical instances of discrimination and genocide. While it sounds like it was not appropriately explained or debriefed, the proof that it was unsuccessful was not that the kids were upset by it. It takes pain and tears to develop a political consciousness. Perhaps this often comes at an older age and perhaps these kids weren’t developing a true understanding. They should have felt that they didn’t want to be Jewish during the Holocaust, specifically, not just that they didn’t want to be Jews currently.
    Not that “not wanting to be Jewish in a particular context,” but at that age (before age 8- i don’t remember how old these kids were), kids only have a semi-concrete intelligence- they often see things in these black and white manners, but can reflect on the experience later and take away different things.
    While I see the point of Dr. Grobman above, that is important, especially for Jews, to understand the tragedy of the Holocaust within the complex cultural beauty of Eastern European Jewish life, I’m not so sure that is the most important lesson for a 7 yr old white christian american.. The reason Americans must learn about the Holocaust is so they understand how easy it is for something like that to happen TO ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE and for them to understand the role of ordinary citizens in preventing this- this is where Facing History succeeds, although it deals with older kids, there are ways younger kids can take away a progressive understanding based in these principles of social psychology. It is imperative that they do. Someone should talk to these kids in 10 years and see what they think of the exercise then.

  19. BH
    As an educator, I am appalled. This kind of program loses all merit when there is no preparation. I have taught in public school and in Jewish schools. One of the problems in public schools with Holocaust education, as I see it, is that it’s the only exposure to anything Jewish. So, in general, Jews are viewed as victims and survivors.
    There is no context given. It’s as if it happened in a vacuum. Suddenly, they hated the Jews! As if before Hitler, there was no Jew-hatred. As if after Hitler, it just stopped. Never again! They get some geography, they learn about Nuremberg, they read The Devil’s Arithmatic or some other novel. Then they learn about the big picture. Holocaust education in the public schools is used as an impetus to learn about larger social, human, political issues. The issues. Tolerance.
    “I don’t want to be Jewish.” What a lesson–for the educators.

  20. What struck me the most was the reaction of the Catholic kid – saying that he doesn’t want to be Jewish. An understandable and predictable reaction. But why does it not occur to the people who push Holocaust education too far that their efforts cause the same reaction in JEWISH kids (especially those without a strong sense of Jewish identity)? Why would any sane person want to be part of a group whose major or only source of identity is the torture and murder of millions of its members?
    zt’s “Yom Capitalism” was interesting. But they should have had a “Yom Socialism” right afterward in which nobody got any water at all for the day. Lesson: There are worse things than inequality.

  21. Boruch Dovid,
    Your on-the-ground experience will never persuade the Fundamentalists of Holocaustism.
    It is precisely the “Never Again” which is emblematic of much of the flaw of both intent and content of Holocaust education generally.
    “Never Again” is a slogan of faith. It is a False Messiah. The fact that it has been proven wrong does nothing (see Darfur and the Kurdish massacres in the late 80’s) means nothing to its Believers. It just means we need to try even more of the same, and when that fails to, more still.
    So what that the L Rebbe died, it just means we need to believe more and act more, and surely it will prove true.
    Holocaustism is a secular False Messianism.

  22. This is hysterical, unhelpful and, ominously, an arguable sign of disproportonate influence. First of all,
    Not in America in 2006, buddy. Not even really in the 50s, when anti-Jewish discrimination was normal. None of you hysterical twentysomething liars know what it is to expect a police officer, not a terrorist or criminal but the authority meant to protect you, to beat you to death for nothing. Thank god the blacks don’t enjoy the influence of the Jews or that boy would’ve had to be raped and beaten to death a hundred times over.
    The key thing here that could’ve saved this idea was, ironocally, emphasizing a certain historical uniqueness for the Holocaust. The same hysterical pundits who want the racial uniqueness of HaShoah written in stone, as a specifically Jewish persecution and therefore in line with the rest of the very different older persecutions, see no uniqueness when the Holocaust is put in line with say the Corso. But it is undeniable that the weakest part of Nazi analogies, be they made by leftists or Neo-Nazis, is that the Nazis were a terribly unique result of very unusual and catastrophic circumstances, and will never appear again in the exactly the same way any more than the Ice Moon idea would.
    So had this horrifying child abuse been explained as an attempt to force the child into a Holocaust simulator, instead of this preposterous idea that Rupert Murdoch or Larry King or Harvey Weinstein have to sit at the back of a city bus when not in their limo, it would’ve been more reasonable. But then we hope to Gopd it would’ve been also impossible. Imagine a parent allowing their child into a Holocaust simulation?! The very idea is yet another cheapening and mythification of the Holocaust itself by its self-described protectors. Whoever designed and allowed this ought to be fired and prosecuted. The Holocaust was the worst thing in history, not something you are allowed by rules or by nature to make a god-damned video game or school activity out of.

  23. And just to leave one more and we swear we’ll go, “Never Again” is an awful slogan. As a sentiment yes it’s unassailable, but considering how many times it has happened again it only serves to impugn you with Jewish chauvenism — Rwandan goyim don’t count, et cetera. “We must never forget,” in the face of all the institutions that prove there is no danger of this, is silly and is repeated into meaninglessness (or forgetting if you will).
    Why not forego a slogan? This is a more complicated thing than a political campaign or a cheeseburger, and it is demeaned when the silliest among us copyright a sentiment that goes without saying and arises on its own when anyone reads history.

  24. ok dk, come here and say that in my face, PLEASE, come and say it right in my face. Dan will tell you where I live. and since he won’t let me post what I want to say, call him and ask him what comes next.
    SIGNED: Kyle’s Mom, the one and the only Fundamentalist of Holocaustism and the False Messiah.
    Where are YOU gonna be on April 30 DK?

  25. Kyle’s Mom,
    I will be where I always am. Doing what I always do. And cursing the Labor Zionists who failed my Hungarian grand-aunt and her children so miserably, and then manipulatively used their respective suffereing and deaths as a raison d’tre for the Israeli State and the New Jew.
    Begin fought with normative Traditionalists against Holocaust Day for the same reasons. WWI started on Tisha B’A. I shed my tears with the rest of Klal Yisroel.
    I don’t celebrate Zionist holidays.

  26. It just occured to me that people may get the wrong idea here, and I certainly don’t want that to happen.
    So let me clarify something important: I am only 1/4 Hungarian. The dominant strain of both my parents is Litvak.

  27. So you won’t be in Washington or someplace in Israel, making sure that theworld sees masses of people around the world protesting the genocide in Sudan.
    You mean, Again, it’s Never Again, Jews Only.
    Listen good, DK, dan’s babi, his rebbish connection is a POLISH lady. She was on the Kastner transport and has no clue how that happened…and when they asked where she was born she said Hungary…ooops, she lied…anyway, here I am and as a result, here’s Dan, and incidentally, they also saved Reb Yoeli, who hated the Zionists even more than you, so that today David Weiss can hobnob with his neturei karta killers and ahamadinejad.
    Is it my fault you had lousy Holocaust Ed teachers? Is it my fault no one wants to listen to reason? Do you know my favorite Holocaust teaching tool? It’s called Dumbo the Elephant–a Disney movie. Six million dead Jews is a Jewish problem to commemorate and internalize. The lesson, however is about how people treat each other. If all you do externally is pound people over the head with six million dead jews, you are offering them a how to instead of a not to–just look at what happened all over Arab lands with all that delightful propaganda stolen straight from der strumer.
    Internally,we have decided (not me, I dunno, who, but we can start with people who think like my parents) that if you, their descendant aren’t Orthodox, they went through hell for nothing…ridiculous. If you tell me I have to be Jewish out of spite, what the hell is that? why am I not being taught about REAL judaism, INTERNAL Judaism that brings joy and love?
    Why does Israel use millions of Holocaust survivors dollars, terribly needed for homecare and teeth and glasses and wheelchairs, for sending little spoiled brats to Auschwitz –to make them better Jews and Zionists? Just another tourist trap where you can shtup the local trade. Then all the Zionists get up and lie and say if there had been an Israel there never would have been a Holocaust…talk about a crock…first of all, there are no ifs in history, if I might quote my best buddy Dr. Grobman above. Second of all, how far away do you think Rommel was and where do you think the Jews of Rhodes and Libya ended up? Same place as the Hungarians, baby. That murder factory in Auschwitz.
    And no, no name change. @$!@#$!@#% the Poles. Why make them comfortable? The Germans had plenty of help. Plenty. And what the Nazis didn’t finish, they tried to do themselves. Kielce anyone? And the Poles don’t even want to deal with restitution…the amazing thing is that there are hundreds of thousands of Jewish hidden children there, and now they are waking up….
    So what are the lessons here? Huh? Ignore it so when all those other genocides happen they could go unchecked? You need to study the past. You also need the right perspective. And you have to follow the Torah, that says–you need to speak out and stop the hate… that’s a human responsibility–which is defined as a mitzvah. It is not ours to start or finish, but to continue to work on making this world, this life, a better one.
    so DK, you can label me, but sticking labels on people, what does that say about YOU?
    Fanatic Believers in Holocaustism
    Kyle’s mom

  28. Kyle’s Mom,
    I really wasn’t talking about you specifically, okay? There is no need to personalize this. We can agree to disagree, right?
    And anyway, our disagreement is only for the public square. I am not against Holocaust education specifically for Jews, though I would prefer that it include:
    1) at these wonderful Labor Zionist Youth camps they include information about how future Israeli president Weitzman referred to the Jews of Eurpe as dust who must accept their fate, but on an up note forcasted that the war would be good for Britain. Also, I would like them to teach how Ben Gurion didn’t fight for the Jews of Europe anymore than he fought the White Paper. Rather, he manipulatively utilized both to the Labor-Zionist advantage. And then he crossed Shul/State lines by acting like a one man Sanhedrin instituting Holocaust Day as a Jewish holiday.
    2) I would like the Conservative Movement to teach how their leader Rabbi Steven Weiss (no relation to the Canonist) foolishly trusted Roosevelt the Jew hater and refused to do a damn thing until it was far too late, and that a synagogue on the Upper East Side still boasts his name, the Free Synagogue, as in Arbeit Mach Frie, I suppose. I would also like the Conservative Movement to teach its children that it is because of Roosevelt the Jew hater that “we” Jews are so loyal to the Democratic party.
    3) I would like Yeshivish and Charedi communities to teach their children that it was on their Gedolim’s advice that so many Jews stayed in Europe instead of fleeing to the ‘Treifa Medina.’
    4) I would like secular private schools with a heavy Jewish population such as Horace Mann to teach how the New York Times avoided the Jewish issue at all cost out of fear of being perceived as a Jewish newspaper.
    5) I would like the Reform Movement to teach how assimilation failed in the worst way on the Reform Movement’s home turf. I would like them to point out that the whole “Berlin is our Jerusalem” idea proved terribly naive.

  29. Steven Wise, not Weiss. Canonists rep as a non-holocaust causing person is safe.
    The more harsh hearsay that I heard in shul when I was nine was that Steven Wise actually knew what was going on, he just dummied up because it would be better for the communiy to stay on Roosevelt’s good side, if not save Europe. The law-biding wealthy Jewish community apparently stood less to lose if the backers of the nuevo riche jewish gangsters died out with the rest of the memory and bodies of Europe. Stam, what do we know?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.