In 1978, Ed Reynolds, then social studies supervisor at Teaneck High School, took steps to ensure that high school students in New Jersey would learn more about genocide, and about the Holocaust in particular.
Not only did Reynolds lead a drive to make the teaching of Holocaust studies mandatory in the state, but he created a Holocaust center at the high school and co-authored a curriculum for teaching genocide.
Among those inspired by his efforts was Teaneck resident Pearl Markovitz, then a teacher at Bowne High School in Kew Garden Hills, N.Y. Winning approval from her principal to introduce Reynold’s curriculum, she created a year-long elective class, teaching that material for some 18 years.
|Volunteer Pearl Markovitz will deal with the Holocaust center’s electronic communications. Courtesy Teaneck High School|
“It’s a beautiful curriculum, teenager-friendly,” said Markovitz, noting that “it used so much of what we know to sensitize [students] and bring them into it.”
Describing the school as an “inner-city, multi-ethnic” institution, the teacher said some of the students had never heard of the Holocaust. Still, her classes were always full “and the kids rose to the occasion.”
Now a volunteer at the THS Holocaust center, Markovitz is hopeful that the Teaneck facility will become a resource for all members of the community looking to learn more about – or share their own knowledge of ““ the Holocaust.
Goldie Minkowitz, a longtime THS teacher and coordinator of the school’s Holocaust center, told The Jewish Standard that while a room at the high school had long ago been set aside for this purpose, “the original books, posters, and artwork were not in use for many years because the center was being used as office space for many other programs.”
“It was very upsetting to those of us who remembered how hard Ed Reynolds and John Chupak worked in the 1980s to set up a special Holocaust and genocide studies center,” she said. Still, she noted, when Angela Davis became principal of the school, “She was totally supportive of the need to find other spaces for these programs as soon as she possibly could.”
With the help of students, who pitched in to clean the space, the center was ready for rededication in November.
According to Minkowitz, the center greatly benefited from the arrival of Markovitz in the community. Since the new volunteer began spending time there as a reference librarian, “there is someone to guide classes and individuals through the resources,” she said.
And now that the e-mail address is operational as well, “we expect many more people to come and visit, and many more volunteers to donate their time and experiences to the students of Teaneck.”
Markovitz said she has already received inquiries by e-mail. One family is looking for books about the Warsaw Ghetto; another offered to share the video interview of a family member taped by Steven Spielberg. She will answer each message she receives and will meet with interested individuals on Thursdays, when she is at the school. She will also use e-mail to alert people to resources available through the THS Holocaust Center and publicize the offerings of other Holocaust programs.
Markovitz – whose course in Queens included semi-annual Holocaust commemorations featuring survivors – said she will bring in survivors to speak at the Teaneck school as well.
“I hope that there will be interest and that it will be busy,” she said. “I especially hope survivors will feel that there’s a place they can come and impart their messages.”
Resources will not be limited to the Holocaust but will also touch on other instances of genocide. For example, one speaker Markovitz hopes to welcome is a Rwandan child who survived the slaughter there.
The Holocaust center has already received many valuable contributions, she said. Last year, Teaneck sculptor Milton Ohring dedicated an original work in memory of family members killed during the Holocaust. In addition, Jeanette Friedman, a contributor to this paper, and her husband, Philip Sieradski, donated a large collection of autographed books and original material to the center in honor of their parents, who were Holocaust survivors.
Minkowitz asks that individuals interested in donating their time and expertise to the center e-mail Markovitz at email@example.com.