Representatives of the Lithuanian education community participated in a seminar in Israel, in Yad Vashem – International School of the Holocaust Studies

From the 15th to 23rd of July, Lithuanian teachers and education staff took part in an internship at the Yad Vashem International School of the Holocaust Studies.

The seminar in Israel for a group of Lithuanian teachers and educators took place after a 2-year break due to the Covid epidemic. The seminar started with a cultural program: an introduction to the history of the city of Jerusalem, and a visit to the site of the Masada fortress, which dates to the heroic struggle of the Israelis to resist the occupying powers.

Participants from Lithuania had daily lectures and activities from morning to evening. The seminar’s program was designed to cover topics related to the history and religion of the Jewish people (lecturer Zeev Dachevsky), the formation of anti-Semitism from the Middle Ages to the rise of the Nazis in Germany (Dr. Daniel Romanovsky), and Jewish life in the territory of the former Soviet Union before the Second World War (Dr. Arkadiy Zeltser). Teachers learned about the Holocaust in detail at the Yad Vashem History Museum, and at a meeting with Yakov Veksler, whose life was changed by the Holocaust and the loss of his parents. Lecturers Noa Sigal, Olga Duke, and Anna Rinneberg presented on how to teach about the Holocaust and how to use documentaries or fiction films. Teachers from Lithuania learnt how the topics on the Holocaust are taught in Israel and how the whole education system works (lecturer Masha Polak Rozenberg). They were introduced to the Yad Vashem archive and its resources.

During the intensive program, the Lithuanian representatives explored the Yad Vashem complex: the Valley of the Communities, searching there for names of their towns and townships where Jewish communities lived before World War II. Teachers explored the alley dedicated to the Righteous Among the Nations – the rescuers of the Jews and took part in a workshop lecture on the Righteous Among the Nations (lecturer Stas Framkin). Dr. Mordehay Yushkovskiy’s lecture on the fate of the Yiddish language and culture in Lithuania fascinated the participants, as the lecturer, with examples and explanations, traveled through the streets of Vilnius and the towns and settlements of Lithuania like a guide.

Alvydas Nikžentaitis, Director of the Lithuanian Institute of History, was among the group members this year. Alvydas Nikžentaitis, a historian who is also a member of the International Commission, shared his thoughts during the seminar on the changing attitudes in Lithuanian society towards the Holocaust. The lecturer gave a detailed description of the changes that have taken place and are still taking place in Lithuania since the restoration of independence; he also looked at the situation in neighboring countries such as Poland and Ukraine.

The seminar at Yad Vashem is about the past, about evaluating historical events. The group of Lithuanian educators also had the opportunity to gain experience about the history of Israel today by visiting the State Museum of Israel and the Theodor Herzl Museum.

According to Kristina Puzarienė, a teacher from Šiauliai, who took part in the seminar, “it will take a long time to fully understand and assess everything we have heard, seen, and experienced. But as a teacher, I noted down so many ideas that I wish I had the strength to implement all of them with my students.”

The group of 24 Lithuanian educators was accompanied by Ingrida Vilkienė, the International Commission’s Education Programme Coordinator. The seminar for Lithuanian teachers in Israel was coordinated by Noa Sigal, Yad Vashem’s International Education Programme Coordinator.

The Lithuanian teachers’ internships in Israel are part of a cooperation agreement between Yad Vashem – the International School for Holocaust Studies and the International Commission’s Secretariat. Since 2003, 360 Lithuanian teachers and educators have participated in seminars at Yad Vashem.

The English teacher and deputy director of Radviliskis Lizdeika gymnasium Skirmante Petraitiene shares her impressions about the seminarclick here.