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TDSB Celebrates Jewish Heritage Month

Friday, April 30, 2021
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB

The Toronto District School Board’s Jewish Heritage Committee (JHC) is made up of close to 80 staff across every level of the system as well as Trustees. Since its inception in 2015, JHC activities have always been focused around teaching & learning in celebration of Jewish heritage and culture – impactful, innovative, and inspirational work with students in fighting antisemitism, and all forms of hate.

This year, the JHC is pleased to partner with the Asian Heritage Committee for the month of May, Jewish and Asian Heritage months, to present Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup. This program targeted at students in Kindergarten-grade 3, has been described as a “very sweet book and a perfect early lesson on diversity.” As Sophie the main character in the story says about her grandmothers’ soups - “a little different; a lot the same”.

Earlier this year, in response to the attack on the Capital in Washington on January 6, educators on our Committee quickly mobilized, researched, and added new resources to our website where information is housed for teachers on Holocaust and Genocide Education and combatting antisemitism.

For International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) we, along with partners Liberation75 and USC Shoah Foundation, presented the Canadian premiere of The Tattooed Torah. This short animated film, based on a true story, engaged TDSB students in grades 4-8. More than 14,000 educators downloaded the film which was accompanied by a Teachers’ Guide.

On February 25, our Committee was honoured to partner with the TDSB’s African Heritage Committee during African Heritage Month to feature Stronger Than Hate, a live webcast honouring the 761st Tank Battalion, the first all African-American Tank Battalion in World War II. The Battalion was instrumental in helping defeat the Nazis as well as liberating several concentration camps. Thousands of our students joined the conversation to consider what we have learned from history and witnesses to genocide, and reflect on how that knowledge can help us take action to counteract hate. A website to house information will make sure the conversation continues.

And on May 4-9, the JHC is pleased to support Liberation75, a virtual, free, once-in-a-lifetime event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust. This global gathering of survivors, descendants, educators and friends will feature survivor testimony, interactive discussions, performances, films, and exhibits. Of special interest to educators includes programming such as American Witnesses: Eyewitness Film Footage at Liberation, from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), Digital Hate: What If Hitler Had Social Media? from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center & Reena Foundation, and Visite Guidée de la Maison d'Anne Frank (Anne Frank House Guided Tour en français), from the Anne Frank House. Educators can register at www.liberation75.org.

Incidents of antisemitism have risen sharply this past year in our country, our city, and at our schools. B’nai Brith reported an increase in Canada of 18.3%. Toronto Police recently released data which showed a more than 50% increase in reported hate crimes with “the Jewish community, followed by the Black community, LGBTQ2S+ community, and the Asian/Chinese communities the most frequently victimized groups.” In February the TDSB released its first-ever Human Rights Annual Report with comprehensive data detailing hate occurrences in our schools, although in different orders, mirrored the Toronto Police data.

It is clear we all have more work to do. For more information on the Jewish Heritage Committee, please contact shari.schwartz-maltz@tdsb.on.ca

 

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