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StandWithUs outraged by Holocaust ‘reenactment’ in Washington, DC elementary school library

(Los Angeles, CA -- December 20, 2021) -- StandWithUs is outraged to learn of what passed for “Holocaust instruction” at Watkins Elementary School, as reported by The Washington Post. A school librarian’s attempt to have third-graders “role play” the genocide of six million Jews was deeply offensive to memory of the Holocaust. Additionally, the instructor likely inflicted trauma on the students involved.

During the shocking “reenactment,” which took place in the school’s library, students were assigned roles correlated with the experiences of Holocaust victims and perpetrators. Unbelievably, some students were assigned to dig mass graves, for example, while a Jewish student was assigned the role of Hitler killing himself in a Berlin bunker. The instructor also inappropriately urged students to keep the activity a secret, telling students that Germany hated Jews because “Jews ruined Christmas,” according to accounts.

“The long-term damage done by this instructor is impossible to measure at this time, in terms of the trauma inflicted on students involved,” said Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs and a daughter of Holocaust survivors. “We would like to thank Watkins Elementary School for placing the instructor -- Librarian Kimberlynn Jurkowski -- on leave, while an investigation takes place. We urge parents to inform their children that no adult, including teachers, should be encouraging students to keep secrets, as this school librarian did.”

For decades, educators have agreed that “reenacting” painful heritage legacies is inappropriate in classroom settings. For example, an educator should not teach about slavery by assigning students the “roles” of slave-owner and slaves. Memory of the Holocaust deserves similar respect, contrary to what happened at Watkins Elementary School library.

StandWithUs is committed to ensuring that Holocaust memory endures as we enter a world without survivors. The core of our strategy is to build interest and empathy among students. We do this by asking students to explore – for example – choices made by bystanders during the genocide and the written words of Jewish youth who fought back. We want to help students take the lessons of the Shoah and become “upstanders” in the future, as well as begin to understand the enormity of what was lost in the Holocaust.

Please contact us if you would like to book an educational presentation about the Holocaust for your school or group.

About StandWithUs

StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.

Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has programs on five continents with chapters and offices throughout the U.S., in Israel, the UK, Canada and Brazil.

For the last ten years, SWU has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum).


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