Milpitas High School teacher Jack Weinstein had taught Holocaust studies in the Bay Area for years. Then, nine years ago, he joined a nationwide teaching team that uses the lessons of the Holocaust to help students examine moral choices.
At the time, about 50 teachers comprised the organization, called Facing History and Ourselves, which strove to bring history's universal lessons into the classroom.
The lessons hit home, providing students of all backgrounds with a deeper awareness of the problems of racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism. One of Weinstein's students, a Chinese woman raised in Vietnam, responded strongly to the ethnic-identity issues.
"I know the things we are studying happened a long time ago, but you could substitute some of it with my name and my experience," she said. "Not the Holocaust part, but the complexity of the community."
Today Weinstein, who lives in Fremont, serves as Facing History's Northern California regional coordinator. One of his major responsibilities is to provide follow-up seminars for the 120 Bay Area teachers who have already attended the organization's training workshops and seminars.
The organization recently received a $5,000 grant from the Holocaust Memorial/Education Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Endowment Fund for holding three one-day follow-up seminars during the school year.
A follow-up seminar is "not just another workshop; it's about an ongoing relationship with the teachers," Weinstein said.
In addition to the seminars, Facing History coordinators assist teachers, helping to facilitate classroom events and lending books and videos from the organization's library. Teachers, in turn, maintain regular communication with the training program, providing feedback on lessons and resource materials.
William Lowenberg, chair of the Holocaust Memorial/Education Fund committee, said:. "All people, not just Jews, need to realize what happened during the Holocaust so it isn't repeated.Hopefully, sharing this tragedy will reduce some of the intolerance."
Weinstein said programs such as Facing History, along with films such as "Schindler's List" and other Holocaust programs, indicate a growing trend of outreach in the Jewish community. All people "have a lot at stake in asking these fundamental questions about human behavior, " he said.
Lowenberg cited this year's 50th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the concentration camps, a San Francisco event partially funded by the Holocaust Memorial/Education Fund.
The Facing History grant was one of three, totaling $16,000, that the Holocaust Memorial/Education Fund awarded to local agencies. The goal of each is to use Holocaust study as an educational tool for the entire community.
The other two grants included:
*$7,500 to the Holocaust Center of Northern California for an interactive Holocaust education video for grades six to 12 .
*$3,500 to Sonoma State University Academic Foundation for the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust to present Holocaust workshops to Sonoma and Marin teachers.