• Washington’s Promise to Minorities and its Meaning for our Center

     

    Washington’s Promise to Minorities and its Meaning for our Center

    by Frank Miller-Small

    It’s now no more that tolerance is spoken of as it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights…

    … the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance…

    Every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be no one to make him afraid.

    — excerpted from George Washington’s letter to
    the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, 1790

    Our country’s rising tide of intolerance toward minorities caused me to wonder about our founders’ values and, if knowing that, might help our Center foster greater tolerance.  I wanted to know if, as some claim, we were intended to be a white Christian nation, relegating minorities to an inferior status.  Or, did our founders envision an egalitarian, multi-cultural America, with different groups living in harmony with each other?  Were Americans, perhaps, of mixed opinions on this issue? My search for answers led me to an insightful collection of essays entitled, “Washington’s Rebuke to Bigotry.”

    This book, written mostly by well- credentialed scholars, educators, and legal experts, explores the significance of our first president’s important, yet relatively little known, 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. It further examines subsequent American responses to the intent of the letter.   To better comprehend the letter’s meaning at the time, the volume begins by providing an historical perspective, which I’ll briefly summarize below.

    At the letter’s writing, Rhode Island, founded by Puritan dissident Roger Williams in the mid-17th century, had long granted religious freedom to minorities, much to the disdain of the other colonies.  Concerned that its rights would be trampled upon, Rhode Island delayed ratifying statehood until the Bill of Rights (1791) promised religious liberty.

    Washington celebrated the new country’s unity by visiting Newport, and, while there, several religious groups gave welcoming speeches, the most memorable by Moses Seixas, president of the Hebrew Congregation. Several days later, Washington penned his famous letter, responding to the Jewish hope that America would treat them with greater tolerance than had been their long experience. Washington’s letter, highlights of which are quoted above, assured the Jews that all minorities would have equal freedom of religion under the law.  Moreover, the government, in our current idiom, would provide protection from “hate crimes” and other forms of prejudice. These promises, from a head of a national government, were revolutionary, unprecedented in the Western World.

    However, they didn’t arise in a vacuum. The amazing success of Rhode Island’s religious freedom experiment provided the main inspiration and model.  Enlightenment ideas and the ideals and recent victories of Madison and Jefferson to wean Virginia away from a state-supported Anglican Church also lent support.

    The intention of the letter and the way it was interpreted went well beyond promising religious freedom to the Jews.  Widely circulated, read and discussed, it gave hope of toleration to all minorities.  More than merely a legal doctrine, this letter presented a vision of a moral, idealistic, harmonious national community.

    Although embraced by minorities, many intellectuals, some leaders, and other sympathizers, the struggle for the fulfillment of this vision had just begun.  Several states continued to use tax support to promote the Christian religion.  Many states had religious tests for public office.  Remarkably, the main reason for eventual Church-State separation derived from the plethora of competing Protestant sects, each fearing the other’s government control, and the last government established Church persisted until 1833, in Massachusetts.  It took several more decades to attain full legal toleration of all religions at the state level.

    America’s initial ambivalence toward minorities, shown by the disparity between the letter’s lofty ideals and the states’ stubborn opposition to them, set the stage for subsequent ambivalent development.  This ambivalence began even with the founders’ original vision which contained some striking contradictions. Washington’s statements and the year-later Bill of Rights didn’t mention the rights of women, ethnic or racial minorities, or slaves.  Moreover, the negative ramifications of this ambivalence played out throughout most of US history, where Jews and other minorities were, at best, merely tolerated by the White Protestant majority.

    This conflict between ideals and realities exposes one of the central American moral paradoxes.  Although there has been and continues to be tremendous discrimination toward many minority groups, this co-exists with the ever-present and potent promise of an inclusive America.  This promise has roused the voices of toleration for many compassionate documents  and court decisions as well as fueled minority rights struggles by individuals and groups, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Marriage Equality Act.

    Armed with the knowledge of the paradoxical nature of Washington’s original vision and its aftermath, we can use this to help our Center broaden the circle of tolerance. We can use Washington’s promise as a springboard to conversations about our present state of minority rights.  We can hold up the examples of the choices American upstanders, such as George Washington and Martin Luther King, made to promote greater minority inclusion as courageous role models. We can employ the circumstances surrounding upstander and opposition choices to initiate and work through difficult and complex conversations about inclusion.

    We can relate these difficult conversations to the important idea, implied in Washington’s letter, that democracy can only work if people cooperate, and this can only happen if people feel free from prejudicial fear. Ideally, as John Dewey said, schools should be the training ground for democracy, the place where young people learn peaceful, cooperative living and its connection to the democratic process.  Unfortunately, many schools don’t have the time, interest, or capability to do this.

    Our Center fills this important void.  We make the democratic connection and provide the unique opportunity to have the aforementioned difficult conversations, helping students recognize and resolve differences by working through them in a civil way.  During this process, as Adam Strom, Facing History educator says, we help them “… separate fact from rumor by breaking own stereotypes and countering myth and misinformation.”  This is what our Center does so well and one reason why our Center is so much needed, particularly, in these troubled times.

    If we can integrate the lessons borne of the American struggle toward inclusion with the lessons of tolerance learned from the Holocaust, this dual focus will brighten our torch to illuminate the dark places in our midst.

    To charge our energies for this challenge, we can summon the words of African –American poet, Langston Hughes, to resound in our ears:

    O, yes I say it plain

    America never was America to me,

    And yet I swear this oath –

    America will be!

    May his faith be ours, and may it inspire us, as we go back to the trenches, to carry forth the spirit of Washington’s letter, despite the strong headwinds, and continue our vital work.

     

     

  • An Educator’s Journey of Spiritual Resistance, Courage and Resilience

    An Educator’s Journey of Spiritual Resistance, Courage and Resilience

    The Holocaust and Jewish Resistance
    Teachers Program

    A presentation by Meryl Menashe, Holocaust Educator

    Thursday, December 7, 2017, at 11 a.m. 

    HMTC
    Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road
    Glen Cove, NY

    “Nothing. Absolutely nothing remains of my childhood, of my youth, not even the grave of my dead father.” – Vladka Meed, Polin Museum

    The Holocaust devastated Jewish life in Europe. To teach the beauty of that life, spiritual resistance during the Holocaust using personal narratives and ensure that it would not be forgotten, the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers Program was born. Founded by Vladka Meed, 32 years ago, the program has brought over 1100 educators to Holocaust sites and sent them back to their classrooms armed with tools and strategies to bring Holocaust education to all 50 states. Presentation will include sites we witness including concentration camps, ghettos, memorials, museums and death camp; lessons learned of the unfathomable depths of mankind’s cruelty, and the courage of the human spirit through small, large and heroic acts of resistance.

    During our journey, we observe antisemitism and memorial desecration; rejoice as evidence that the Jewish people triumphed through experiencing Israeli students singing Hatikvah at Treblinka; Shabbat in Lublin and Hebrew prayers chanted at Birkenau and so much more. The roads through towns take us to each place; roads in existence during the Shoah, and still lead us there today.

    Join us on an educators’ photo journey through the Holocaust.

  • One Clip at a Time Professional Development Workshop

    One Clip at a Time
    Professional Development Workshop

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017 and Wednesday July 12, 2017
    9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

    Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center 
    Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road
    Glen Cove, NY 

    Registration is FREE for educators 

    Are you ready to change the world? if you are an educator looking to make a difference in your life as an educator and in the lives of your students, this is the workshop for you. One Clip at a Time is a non-profit organization based in Tennessee that has created an engaging and interactive Social Studies/English/Service Learning program based on the theme of tolerance and diversity and an accompanying educator’s kit designed to motivate and empower students.

    The program crosses the curricula and is standards based. The movement is an outgrowth of the “Paper Clip Project” which brought world wide attention to Whitwell, Tennessee after it was captured in the award-winning film, Paper Clips. Throughout the course of the program, students learn the history of the Holocaust and develop an awareness of the impact it had on the world. Students then discover ways to make positive changes in their own classrooms and communities and are encouraged to continually make a difference.

    At HMTC the two-day session will be conducted by One Clip/Three Village Educators, Irene Berman and Kate Hunter. The first day will include training on the One Clip curriculum and the second day will include action planning and implementation, Survivor testimonies and a museum tour. Lunch is included both days. Attendees will receive their own One Clip Kit, which includes a copy of the Paper Clips film, an informational CD, detailed lesson plans, student journals and primary source documents.

    Space is limited. Register at www.oneclipatatime.org. For more information contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040 or tracygarrisonfeinberg@hmtcli.org.

  • Adolescent Advocates: Making Change Happen

    The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC), supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, as part of the Communities Against Hate initiative, is pleased to announce Adolescent Advocates, a new and unique program to train and empower teens to combat the rise of hate crimes on Long Island.

    HMTC is looking for Adolescent Advocates in grades 7-11 who are committed to bringing change to their communities and adult mentors, such as educators or youth group leaders, who are currently working with young adults to learn how to conduct trainings and be ongoing advisors. After going through the Adolescent Advocate training session, students/youth/graduates will have the tools they need to be effective advocates for themselves and their peers. They will then be able to enact tolerance action plans in their communities, with support from their trained partner adult mentors.

    Training sessions for Adolescent Advocates will take place on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at the Boys and Girls Club, 471 Atlantic Avenue, Bellport NY; and on Sunday, October 22, 2017 at HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY. Mandatory Training for adult mentors will take place Thursday, August 17, 2017, at HMTC.

    Teens and adults interested in participating in Adolescent Advocates must fill out an online application, which can be found on HMTC’s website at hmtcli.org/advocates. Space is limited. Mentor applications are due by June 30, 2017. Student applications will be accepted through September 1, 2017.

    HMTC was prompted to create this program by the rise in racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic incidents since Election Day, 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 40% of all incidents occur in educational settings. HMTC is committed to empowering students with the tools they need to not only react to incidents of prejudice but to be proactive in preventing those incidents in their schools and communities.

    Communities Against Hate is a national initiative to collect data and respond to incidents of violence, threats, and property damage motivated by hate across the United States. The initiative leverages a reporting database (www.CommunitiesAgainstHate.org) that aggregates reports from both victims, witnesses and news accounts of hate incidents, as well as offers legal resources and social services to support people in need. Communities Against Hate aims to aggregate data on hate incidents, providing legal and social support, raising awareness, and educating the public on the prevalence of hate.

    The initiative is led by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and partner organizations representing diverse communities that reflect the fabric of America, including: Center for Community Change; Color of Change; Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network); Hollaback!; Muslim Advocates; National Council of La Raza; National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC); New York City Anti-Violence Project; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; The Sikh Coalition; National Disability Rights Network; South Asian Americans (SAALT) and the Transgender Law Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center is serving as a strategic advisor to the initiative.

    For more information about how to apply to be a part of the Adolescent Advocates program contact Helen Turner, Adolescent Advocates Program Manager, at (516) 571-8040 or helenturner@hmtcli.org, or visit hmtli.org.

     

  • Choice and Responsibility During the Holocaust

    Choice and Responsibility During the Holocaust

    a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Professional Development Workshop

    Thursday, June 8, 2017, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

    Rescheduled from October 2016

    HMTC
    Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road
    Glen Cove, NY

    The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County, in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, presents a one-day professional development workshop that will provide teachers with resources and pedagogical approaches to teaching about the Holocaust.

    The workshop is open to middle school, high school and community college educators, as well as pre-service educators, and administrators. The workshop provides books and other resources from the USHMM. Educators will receive a certificate of participation at the completion of the program.

    Coffee, tea and a light lunch will be provided. The $15 registration fee helps to deray food costs. For more information or to register contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040 or tracygarrisonfeinberg@hmtcli.org.

  • Teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird”

    Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird

    a Facing History and Ourselves workshop

    Rescheduled from March

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

    HMTC
    Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road
    Glen Cove, NY

    This workshop introduces Facing History’s resource, Teaching Mockingbird, which incorporates civic education, ethical reflection, and historical context into a literary exploration of Harper Lee’s beloved novel. It offers a fresh approach that integrates multimedia resources, historical sources, and Common Core-aligned strategies that deepen students’ understanding of the novel and illuminate fundamental questions of human behavior. Participants will discover new interdisciplinary teaching strategies that reinforce historical and literacy skill and will receive a free copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Recommended for 6-12th grade English Language Arts, Social Studies or Humanities educators teaching the novel.

    There is a registration fee of $10 which includes lunch and materials. Register online here.

    For more information contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040 or tracygarrisonfeinberg@hmtcli.org.

  • Lessons from the Holocaust: The Path to Justice and Equity in Higher Education

    First Annual Path to Justice Conference

    Lessons from the Holocaust:
    The Path to Justice and Equity in Higher Education

    co-sponsored by 
    Nassau Community College
    and the 
    Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017
    8:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. 

    CCB 252/3
    Nassau Community College
    One Education Drive, Garden City, NY

    The objective of the conference is to share knowledge in the fields of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Human Rights Studies, Multicultural/Diversity Studies and the role of social justice advocacy in higher education, while building collegiality, community and understanding across these disciplines.

    Some of the topics that will be covered include Survivor testimony; ethics and choices; physical and spiritual resistance; and America’s roles and responsibilities.

    Registration is required. RSVP by May 1. Lunch and certificates will be provided. For more information or to RSVP contact Joyce Stern at Joyce.Stern@ncc.edu.

     

  • Survivor: Aron’s Story – Professional Development Workshop

    Survivor: Aron’s Story

    A Professional Development Workshop for Educators

    Rescheduled from February!

    Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 4-6 p.m. 

    HMTC
    Welywn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road
    Glen Cove, NY 

    Author Alex Teplish immerses the audience into his grandfather’s memoir, utilizing Shoah Foundation video testimony, artwork from the book, as well as historical music and imagery. Humanities and art educators are encouraged to join us for this engaging presentation.

    The first part of Survivor: Aron’s Story shares Aron’s experience of living in Odessa, Ukraine and his survival as a teenager under the Romanian/Nazi occupation during WWII. Aron’s story, visually depicted in the graphic novel form, allows readers to experience the events first hand, through the eyes of young Aron himself, while learning about one of the least documented episodes of the Holocaust. The second part of the book delves deeper into the history of the Jewish Diaspora, connecting this historical background to the roots of Jewish persecution, WWII and the Holocaust.

    Contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040 or tracygarrisonfeinberg@hmtcli.org for more information or to register.

     

  • HMTC Presents Spring Professional Development Workshops for Educators

     

    Educators will have three opportunities to attend professional development workshops at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) this Spring. Survivor: Aron’s Story, will take place on Tuesday, May 9, at 4 p.m.; Teaching Mockingbird, a Facing History and Ourselves workshop, will take place on Tuesday, May 16 at 10 a.m.; and Choice and Responsibility During the Holocaust, a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum workshop, will take palace on Thursday, June 8, at 9:30 a.m. All three workshops will be held at HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY.

    Humanities and art educators are encouraged to attend Survivor: Aron’s Story on May 9. Author Alex Teplish will immerse the audience into his grandfather’s memoir, utilizing Shoah Foundation video testimony, artwork from the book, as well as historical music and imagery. The first part of Survivor: Aron’s Story shared Aron’s experience of living in Odessa, Ukraine and his survival as a teenager until the Romanian/Nazi occupation during WWII. Aron’s story, visually depicted in graphic novel form, allows readers to experience the events first hand, though the eyes of young Aron himself.

    The May 16 workshop will introduce Facing History’s resource, Teaching Mockingbird, which incorporates civic education, ethical reflection and historical context into a literary exploration of Harper Lee’s beloved novel. Participants will discover new interdisciplinary teaching strategies that reinforce historical and literacy skill and will also receive a free copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. This workshop is recommended for 6-12th grade English Language Arts, Social Studies or Humanities educators. There is a $10 registration fee for this workshop.

    On June 8, HMTC and USHMM will present a one-day workshop that will provide teachers with resources and pedagogical approaches to teach the Holocaust. The workshop is open to middle school, high school and community college educators, as well as pre-service educators and administrators. Participants will receive books and resources from USHMM and a certificate of participation at the completion of the program. A light lunch will be provided. There is a $15 registration fee for this workshop.

    To register for the Facing History workshop on May 16, visit https://www.facinghistory.org/calendar/w2017ny5-new-approach-teaching-kill-mockingbird/ . For more information or to register for Aron’s Story or the USHMM workshop, contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040 or tracygarrisonfeinberg@hmtcli.org.

  • Workshop: Voice and the Voiceless – Analyzing Holocaust Artifacts to Uncover Individual Stories

    Voice and the Voiceless: 
    Analyzing Holocaust Artifacts to
    Uncover Individual Stories

    A Long Island Writing Project
    Workshop 

    facilitated by Victoria Alessi 

    Saturday, March 4, 2017, at 10 a.m. 

    Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center 
    Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road
    Glen Cove, NY 

    After examining and discussing the historical significance of Holocaust artifacts, artwork, and literature, participants will respond to the presentation through their own writing as they explore feelings, perspectives and emotions connected to the Holocaust. Participants will also explore, through written response and discussion, how stories, artwork and artifacts illuminate the diversity of human experience.

    There is no fee to attend this workshop.

    The Long Island Writing Project (LIWP) comprises teachers from kindergarten through university. Workshop leaders are outstanding educators from different grade levels and disciplines in local schools. LIWP is an official site of the National Writing Project. Through their work with teachers in Nassau and Western Suffolk counties, they seek to improve writing, reading and learning in area schools.

    For more information contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040.