The recent fatal shooting at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. is a stark reminder that each of us has the responsibility to stand up to prejudice and hate whenever and wherever we encounter it.
Sara J. Bloomfield, Director of the USHMM in Washington, sent out the following statement: “This incident underscores why the Museum is so important. The Holocaust did not begin with mass murder. It began with hate. The Holocaust reminds us of the dangers of indifference and unchecked hate — and that each of us has a responsibility to stand up to it.”
As individuals and as a community, we search again for answers and solutions to this kind of needless violence.
The Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center is working in our region to reach students, teachers and communities with educational programs that focus on the tragic consequences of bigotry, prejudice and hatreds. The center’s mission of teaching and learning for humanity puts it on the front lines of educating our young people. With a multi-pronged approach to Holocaust education, students who study the Holocaust in the context of human rights and genocide learn that hatred and prejudice have tragic consequences. They tell their teachers they will no longer accept bullying in their classes, and that they know the difference one person can make:
“After studying the Holocaust and hearing a speaker, I feel it is my job to help others to be tolerant towards different races and cultures. I can’t just let things happen anymore,” says one Lynnwood High School student.
As a small non-profit, the center dedicates its resources to programs that include: Holocaust teaching trunks, survivor presentations to classes, teacher training, traveling exhibits, classroom book sets, community programs, and an extensive multi-media library of artifacts, testimonies and other Holocaust materials. With these programs, we reached 40,000 students, teachers and community members this year.
These acts of violence, especially toward Jewish institutions, are a challenge to all of us. We grieve Stephen Tyrone Johns, who lost his life in Washington D.C. At the Holocaust Center, we confront this challenge through education. This is what the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has stood for since it opened its doors, and this is the mission of our local center in Seattle.
Dee Simon and Laurie Warshal Cohen are co-executive directors of the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.