Calling on Kentucky Teachers: Improve Holocaust education through UK-led initiative

LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 10, 2023) Teachers across the Commonwealth have an opportunity to improve K-12 Holocaust education through a training initiative led by the University of Kentucky.

Educators can register for online and in-person workshops on Holocaust education, which will be offered from late January to early June 2023.

Funded by a grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund (JHF), the UK-JHF Holocaust Education Initiative creates opportunities for interdisciplinary content sharing, pedagogical training and collaborative planning.

The program, launched last May by Jewish Studies at the UK College of Arts and Sciences, aims to empower Kentucky teachers to meet the challenges of state-mandated legislation. In 2018, lawmakers passed the Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act, requiring that Holocaust education be taught in all middle and high schools.

Since 2021, faculty members from Jewish Studies and the UK College of Education have been working with educators across the state to develop a series of workshops specifically focused on Kentucky academic standards.

The program recently received an additional $400,000 in funding from the Jewish Heritage Fund, extending the project for at least another year. With the funding, the UK-JHF Holocaust Initiative will begin recruiting a second round of teacher leaders.

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our work with educators across the state to create an ethical, engaging curriculum for Holocaust education,” said Janice Fernheimer, co-director of the initiative. “With the current public discourse, it is becoming increasingly important to help students understand how simple, everyday acts have the power to contribute to and prevent horrifying acts of genocide. Each of us can positively impact the world by speaking to and treating others.”

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“Teachers can expect to deepen their knowledge of one of the most harrowing and formative events in world history and learn teaching approaches that will inspire students to ask questions that still persist a century later,” Kathy Swan, professor in the Curriculum Department and teaching “The content-related expertise of the Jewish Studies course combined with the didactic expertise of the teacher training course offers teachers a good basis for dealing with hard history in an intellectually meaningful and class-appropriate manner.”

The aims of the initiative are multifaceted – to recruit and train teachers to provide ethical education about the Holocaust, to create curriculum materials that can be used by other educators, and to share those materials on the UK Holocaust Education website.

The initiative also builds on the university’s solid program of Jewish Studies, which was first established in 1996 as an interdisciplinary minor.

Kentucky teachers interested in participating in the program can find a calendar of events and registration links here. For more information and questions, please contact Karen Petrone or Janice Fernheimer.