Channeling History

Partnership with Holocaust Museum gives professor the chance to be part of ‘life-changing’ program

A green and grey striped shirt featuring a yellow star worn by a jewish prisoner

The Virginia Holocaust Museum’s teacher education institute opens teachers’ eyes to history and ‘what can happen when hate goes unchecked,’ says an organizer. Photo credit: Getty Images

Longwood’s collaboration in a professional development program for teachers this summer is the first step in the university’s new partnership with the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

This summer, a Longwood faculty member will for the first time participate in teaching the museum’s highly popular Alexander Lebenstein Teacher Education Institute, which not only educates middle- and high-school teachers about the Holocaust but also shows them how to incorporate it into their classroom curricula.

Both of the institute’s two-week sessions, each consisting of a week of online instruction and a week of instruction at the museum, will be taught by Dr. Melissa Kravetz, a scholar of German history and assistant professor of history at Longwood, along with museum education director Megan Ferenczy and museum executive director Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn. This year’s sessions are scheduled July 4-15 and Aug. 1-12.

“This is a true collaboration between Longwood and the Virginia Holocaust Museum,” said Dr. Jeannine Perry, dean of graduate and professional studies. “We hope it will lead to other things.”

The Longwood connection with the museum started with Dr. Charles W. Sydnor Jr., a former executive director at the museum who began his career as a Longwood history professor in 1972. At the museum, Sydnor advocated for a relationship with Longwood and made the initial contact with Kravetz about teaching in the summer institute.

Participants in the institute earn recertification points and can opt to earn graduate credit, as well, said Ferenczy. “We’re excited about this summer and about this partnership,” she said.

Kravetz is also looking forward to being part of the institute.

“The online week, during which teachers will read War and Genocide by Doris Bergen, is to gain background knowledge,” she said. A traveling exhibition that will be at the VHM this summer, “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” will be a useful tool in explaining the Nazis’ use of eugenics, and a talk by a Holocaust survivor or couple will put a human face on this horrific chapter of history, she added.

Ferenczy described the institute as “life-changing for teachers. It opens their eyes to history and to what can happen when hate goes unchecked. It’s a light bulb moment, which is what I love.” The institute, which Beorn called “one of our most important programs for bringing the Holocaust to a larger audience,” will again be sponsored by Weinstein Properties.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum, which opened in 1997, is housed in a former tobacco warehouse in the Shockoe Bottom section of Richmond. More than 8,500 students tour the facility each year.

—Kent Booty