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Holocaust Education

IWitness-CIJE Jewish Day School Initiative
The IWitness-CIJE Jewish Day School Initiative is a 4-year project, which will offer new resources and activities on the innovative IWitness educational platform (IWitness.usc.edu) for effective and appropriate teaching of the Holocaust and other subjects at Jewish day schools of all denominations.
IWitness makes testimonies from USC Shoah Foundation’s vast archive of genocide survivor and witness interviews accessible for teaching through an easy-to-use yet powerful online platform. The IWitness multimedia interface and video-based activities integrate testimony-based education with the development of digital literacy and other 21st-century competencies. The activities boost students’ knowledge of subject matter while developing their critical-thinking skills and empathy for others. Students become actively engaged with the study of many subjects, including the Holocaust and the important historical and philosophical questions it raises.
The aim – and often the result – is to spark students’ motivation to act as responsible citizens in Jewish life and in our larger civil society.

Flexible Education for Multiple Subjects
IWitness testimonies encompass a range of subjects that are diverse and relevant to a broad variety of classes, from Jewish history and ethics to the study of language, prayer, music and other subjects. IWitness- CIJE educators are enabled to choose age-appropriate subject matter relevant to their classroom and curricular goals. For example, survivors describe experiences such as prayer, Shabbat and holidays before and during WWII, rebuilding Jewish life after the war, clandestine learning in ghettos, in hiding and camps – experiences that bring the past into students’ present and develop their knowledge and their Jewish identity. Many students express a renewed sense of appreciation for their own ability to lead Jewish lives in freedom after engaging with the testimonies made accessible via IWitness.
IWitness offers multiple entry points for use in a variety of learning environments. The platform includes curated testimony clips that highlight issues like friendship, schooling, anti-Semitism, gratitude and rescue – topics have special resonance with students. Testimonies help teachers and students navigate difficult and sometimes complex ethical questions: Why did some turn their back on their neighbors while others risked their lives to help? How is friendship affected in times of crisis? What is the power of choice? The ethical questions captivate students’ imagination, develop knowledge and help develop their critical thinking capacity and literacy skills.

Jewish Day Schools: Unique Activities and Opportunities
The IWitness-CIJE Jewish Day School Initiative is developing new multimedia learning activities specifically for CIJE school communities that align with curricular outcome goals for the Jewish Day School environment. To deepen the learning experience, the program is also bringing additional historical databases into IWitness; maps of thousands of prewar Jewish communities, Hasidic dynasties and courts; and halachic questions of the Holocaust. These and other in-depth resources will be available to a wide audience including educators, students, and scholars involved in the CIJE community.
IWitness for Jewish Day Schools will combine the best of secular historical learning with the capacity to gain Jewish literacy and learning, in effect joining together the two curricular goals of the Yeshivas and Jewish Day Schools in an engaging format for today’s teachers and students.
We are grateful for the support received form the Claims Conference to help build this program.