A recent study commissioned by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center shows its programs can be a game changer.
HERC programming significantly changes the way the young participants think about antisemitism, racism and the Holocaust, according to the survey results.
Of about 400 students studied, in both middle and high schools, 77% indicated they found the HERC program they attended “meaningful to me.”
“I left the program wanting to learn more about how to stop intolerance, bigotry and racism,” was agreed to by about 70 percent of the students, as was “I want more programs like this in my school.”
HERC, which commissioned the “impact” study, is a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
“The findings of the impact study speak to the importance of the work HERC has done over the years and ensuring that the lessons of the past will continue to inform our future,” said Miryam Rosenzweig, president and CEO of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
The study was of students who experienced any HERC or HERC-related programming from January- May 2021, according to HERC. The data comes from surveys distributed following HERC programming ranging from a Holocaust survivor speaker in an 8th-grade class to the multi-school Christian Picciolini presentation that hundreds of students participated in. Picciolini is a former American extremist who works to help young people disengage from hate.
The surveys found increased knowledge of the Holocaust and increased awareness of racism in society. More than half of the students said the presentation they saw changed the way they think about racism. One-third said they were newly inspired to take action in their own lives.
“This shows our work in Wisconsin schools is having a critical level of impact and that we are teaching real and lasting lessons for the next generation, lessons that inspire students to become upstanders” said HERC Executive Director Samantha Abramson. “As Wisconsin’s Holocaust education mandate takes effect next fall with HERC as the leading resource on Holocaust education statewide, this study is very timely, rewarding, and reassuring that our programming and offerings make a difference.”
Surveys produced hundreds of student comments, including:
- “It’s helped me realize how big a problem racism is in society.”
- “I thought Holocaust wasn’t as bad as it really was.”
- “I think that it made me more open minded and understand that I need to stick up for me and other people.”
- “I had never really thought much of the topic before so not much changed but it will be something to think about while learning more.”
The majority of students felt that the presentation they attended changed the way they think about antisemitism and racism, according to the study, and their role in combatting such hatred.
“The findings of the impact study show that HERC is raising awareness of the Holocaust and antisemitism at a time when we have seen a dramatic rise in antisemitic events in Wisconsin and across North America,” Rosenzweig said. “We are so fortunate to have the advocacy and expertise of HERC in our community and for all of Wisconsin.”