Annual Review of Programs

Click here to read the full 2021 TOLI Annual Review

Overview of TOLI Programs, 2021

2021 brought unexpected challenges as well as new opportunities to educators and to TOLI. Teachers across the United States and Europe continued to discover innovative ways to engage their students and to move quickly between virtual and in-person environments. Working to support the needs of teachers, TOLI also practiced flexibility and innovation in our programs.

TOLI’s Board of Directors and faculty are proud of the efforts of our leaders to adjust to local, state, and national restrictions while bringing fresh content and pedagogical approaches to our participating teachers. We are pleased to share our work with you here.

TOLI Programs in the U.S. – highlights

Throughout the pandemic, we at TOLI have done our utmost to respond by supporting teachers as they seek innovative ways to teach about the Holocaust and to further their own professional development while facing unprecedented challenges. To do this, in 2021 TOLI U.S. leaders Sondra Perl, Jennifer Lemberg, and Wendy Warren continued to create and support programs that offered opportunities for learning and community-building, whether in-person or virtual. Throughout a year that brought many changes, we worked closely with the leaders of our regional seminars to offer guidance and insight as they developed and adapted their seminars. Below are highlights of our activities.

Virtual Programs Offered to the TOLI’s National Network

To strengthen our network and to ensure that TOLI continued to be a source of inspiration and sustenance to the teachers in our seminars, we continued our series of online programs offered to the entire TOLI network of teachers. These events drew strong attendance from members of every cohort that has been to NYC along with many teachers from the regional seminars and, when scheduling allowed, teachers from Europe. Presentations by Holocaust survivors and experts in Holocaust studies offered opportunities for teachers to gather and learn together, while a memorial for survivor Irving Roth offered the chance to honor his legacy and his impact on so many teachers’ classrooms. Overall, these events contributed to a continuing sense of cohesion and connection even as all of us faced continuing uncertainty. Events have featured talks by Holocaust survivors, scholars and experts as well as film screenings and presentations on innovative resources for teachers.


The 2021 New York City Seminar

A Two-Year Virtual Journey*
In order to continue the work of the seminar in NYC, Sondra Perl and Jennifer Lemberg sustained their work with participants accepted into the program in 2020.

Continuing our Monthly Meetings throughout the Year
Our monthly meetings, begun in the fall of 2020, concluded a full year later in the fall of 2021. In the spring, we finished a series of curriculum sessions where participating teachers offered thoughtful, interactive presentations based on lessons they use in their classrooms or on new lessons they wished to try out with the group. In the fall, we invited guest speakers from the organizations Voice of Witness and Retro Report to follow up on their work with the teachers during the summer seminar (see below).

Three-day Virtual Seminar in June
From June 18-21 we held a three-day virtual seminar during which we set out to offer an intensive and in-depth opportunity to learn more deeply about Holocaust content and pedagogy; to explore related issues of human rights and social justice through innovative content; to engage with Jewish history and practice; and to foster writing practice through regular opportunities to write and share within small groups. Invited speakers included Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps; Micha Franke on the concentration camp system; representatives from the organizations Retro Report and Voice of Witness; and Rabbi Tom Weiner of Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, New York, who spoke to the group before we attended virtual services there that evening.

“It’s difficult to put into words just how transformative our time together was. Thank you for making the experience authentic despite the digital platform. It felt like I was right there with you all.”

“Thank you so much for this opportunity. Like so many others said, I was not sure how 3 days of Zoom was going to be and was apprehensive about it. In the end, though, we did create a community and we were able to share our humanity. That was only possible because of the intentional creation of the. . . agenda and because of your thoughtful and sensitive leadership.”

*In-person seminar in NYC will resume in July 2022

The Regional Seminars: In-Person, Virtual and Hybrid Options

In 2021, TOLI supported 11 regional seminars across the United States. In-person seminars were held in Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Due to the pandemic, seminars planned for Arizona, California, Virginia, and Wisconsin were held virtually or used a hybrid model. The flexibility and variety demonstrated by the work of the regional seminars during the pandemic showcases some of TOLI’s best attributes: recognizing the needs of teachers, collaborating well with other institutions, and developing new approaches appropriate to the current demands of teaching a difficult subject. Below are some highlights from these programs.

Arizona – In its inaugural year, a small group of participants met virtually over the course of eight days in June. The seminar explored storytelling as an act of resistance during the Holocaust and beyond, including the example of the Oyneg Shabbos Archive in the Warsaw Ghetto.

California – Leaders Pam Bodnar and Gail Desler held their second online seminar in 2021. Participants met on Zoom over a three-week period in July to explore the history of the Holocaust and human rights issues ranging including state-sanctioned forced removal and genocide, especially considering those who were upstanders. Several out-of-state participants added to the range of perspectives in shared conversations.

Maryland – Meeting in late July, participants explored the power of reflective writing as a means of grappling with the emotional content of American slavery and Holocaust extermination camps. The Maryland seminar focused on helping participating teachers examine reasons for teaching the Holocaust and human rights in their professional settings and modeling activities that can engage students with this important but challenging content.

Minnesota – Participants who attended Minnesota’s week-long seminar focused on the resilience of people who have experienced trauma. These included Jewish and Dakota communities, as well as other marginalized groups. A discussion among the participants made it evident that the seminar’s focus on resiliency equally applies to teachers, who are themselves experiencing trauma as they continue to address inequities in educational settings, often without administrative support.

Montana –  Now in its 10th year, this seminar convened for one week in July to discuss the
parallels between the Holocaust and the history of colonization and governmental policies towards
Indigenous peoples in the United States. Highlights featured two field experiences which brought the classroom learning to life. Participants spent an afternoon at Congregation Beth Aaron in Billings and a full day on the Northern Cheyenne
Reservation with guest speaker Walter Runs Above. Supported by a grant from Humanities Montana.

New Mexico – For five days in July, participants gathered to examine the following question: In what
ways can we as educators build a curriculum that incorporates major historical themes, develops student agency,
ensures divergence within a cultural script, empowers students to take pride in their identity, and advances student critical thinking when considering historic context to mend, heal, and transform? Participants engaged in four intensive classroom days filled with speakers and activities and spent a full day at Temple Albert. Supported by a grant from the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.

North Carolina – Educators participating in the North Carolina seminar were able to build a strong community in a short amount of time. Each participant engaged in an inquiry project, and experienced seminar leaders Tonya Wertz-Orbaugh and Donna Tarney were impressed at how participants wrestled with seemingly impossible questions with more intensity than they had seen before. Topics for the projects were designed to focus on a social justice issue important to participating teachers’ school or community. Supported by grants from North Carolina Humanities and the Blumenthal Foundation.

Oklahoma –  The seminar in Oklahoma met for the first time in 2021, gathering participants for a five- day program. Lessons about the Holocaust and the Tulsa Race Massacre were woven into writing activities, discussions, and interactive experiences throughout the week. Field experiences included trips to the Sherwin Miller Jewish Museum of Art and a walking tour through what remains of the Greenwood neighborhood, where participants were asked to imagine what once existed there. Supported by a grant from Oklahoma Humanities.

Oregon – For five days in August, participants met to discuss, write about, and reflect on human rights violations such as the Holocaust and Japanese Internment. The seminar also included information about antisemitism, the history of Judaism, and how best to teach the Holocaust.

Virginia – In this hybrid version of the Virginia seminar, participants met for five days in June. Some of the participants had met virtually once a month during the previous school year. They were joined by a few others for the summer seminar, held virtually but with in-person visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a day in Leesburg, Virginia, where presenters helped participants untangle a complex history of racism in Virginia. These experiences were aligned with in-depth study of the Holocaust.

Wisconsin – Most of Wisconsin’s participants had studied three books together over seven months in the school year before the 2021 summer seminar. While the five-day program was held mostly virtually, participants had the option to visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois. The trip provided the opportunity for those who participated to discuss their shared experiences in-person for the first time. Supported by grants from Bader Philanthropies and the Harri Hoffmann Family Foundation.

Regional Seminars Scheduled for 2022

Currently we have eight regional seminars scheduled for the summer of 2022. At this time, all of them are planning for in-person meetings. For more information about these programs, visit this page.

TOLI Programs in Europe – highlights


Bulgaria – This program, organized in partnership with the American University in Bulgaria and co- funded by the European Commission’s Europe for Citizens Program, took place in Blagoevgrad on July 12-16. Teachers from across the country had the opportunity to participate in the seminar, to learn from internationally renowned lecturers, to listen to survivor testimonies and to think creatively and collaboratively about how to teach the Holocaust and social justice.

 Italy – The seminar was organized by TOLI in partnership with Fondazione CDEC – the Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center Foundation and was co-funded by the European Commission’s Europe for Citizens Program. Offering programming on the study of the antisemitic, fascist segregation (persecution, discrimination) and the causes and effects of today’s hate speech in Italy, this seminar provided educators with suitable tools for working with students. In teaching these topics, the program demonstrated how to integrate national and international approaches and to grasp the current relevance of this crucial page of Italian and European twentieth century history. The seminar took place in Padua from August 29 – September 2, 2021.

Lithuania – This seminar was organized in partnership with The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The seminar was co-funded by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The seminar was designed to contribute to increasing the quality of education regarding the Holocaust and social justice in Lithuania and to build understanding of the contemporary relevance of this important part of modern history. The seminar was held in Vilnius from October 24-28, 2021.

Poland – This seminar was organized in partnership with POLIN – Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It took place in Warsaw, Oświęcim, and Krakow on August 17-21, 2021. The seminar was made possible by a generous donation from the Mostysser family and by a grant from the European Commission’s Europe for Citizens Program for a project coordinated by the Intercultural Institute Timisoara (Romania), in partnership with Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica
Contemporanea (Italy), Amalipe Center (Bulgaria) and Big Picture Association (Poland).

Romania –The 10th annual Steven & Anne Ausnit Romania Seminar was organized in partnership with the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania and with the Intercultural Institute Timisoara, on July 20-24, 2021. The seminar was co-funded by the European Commission’s Europe for Citizens Program, the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, and the family of Steven and Anne Ausnit, and intended to support Holocaust and social justice education in Romania.

Serbia – This was the first seminar for teachers organized in partnership with Terraforming in Serbia and co-funded by the European Commission’s Europe for Citizens Program. It took place in Novi Sad on August 22-26, 2021.

Ukraine – This seminar was organized in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies and co-funded by the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund. The seminar was held in Kyiv from October 28 – November 1, 2021.

In 2022, seminars are planned for Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and Ukraine. TOLI also conducted two international conferences in Poland and Romania.


In 2021, TOLI awarded 95 impact grants to teachers in Europe. Teachers continued to do an amazing job adapting their projects to the current environment and finding ways to keep their students interested in this subject despite the many challenges.

Publications and Events

  • This year, TOLI was especially proud to announce the release of Becoming a Holocaust Educator: Purposeful Pedagogy Through Inquiry, co-edited by Jennifer Lemberg and Alexander (Sandy) Pope, a co-leader of TOLI’s regional seminar in Maryland. The book features essays on teaching about the Holocaust and social justice by teachers in TOLI’s network. The volume was co-published by Teachers College Press and the National Writing Project.
  • Jennifer Lemberg published “Olga Lengyel: A Continuing Legacy”in Holocaust Remembered: Women of the Holocaust, a special supplement published by the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission of South Carolina. The issue was distributed in newspapers to nearly two million households throughout the state of South Carolina.
  • Sondra Perl gave a Kristallnacht Lecture sponsored by Temple Beth-El, South Bend, Indiana on November 7, 2021, joined by Indiana regional seminar leaders Ashley Libben and Sarah Wilson. (Recording available on TOLI’s website here)
  • Jennifer Lemberg organized a panel for Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, NY: “Combating Antisemitism, Confronting Intolerance: Holocaust Education in Today’s Classrooms,” featuring Cara Crandall, Corey Harbaugh, and Wendy Warren, December 3, 2021.
  • Jennifer Lemberg participated in a panel, “From the Classroom to the Professional Community: Addressing Antisemitism in English Educational Spaces,” sponsored by the Jewish Caucus at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention, November 21, 2021.
  • TOLI held a public book launch event for Becoming a Holocaust Educator: Purposeful Pedagogy Through Inquiry in October, featuring co-editors Jennifer Lemberg and Sandy Pope with teachers Corey Harbaugh, Brenda Johnston, Michelle Sadrena Pledger, and Wendy Warren, October 26, 2021. (Recording available on TOLI’s website here)

Public Webinars

In 2021 TOLI expanded its array of virtual offerings open to the general public, with a range of programs intended to raise public awareness about the Holocaust and related human rights issues. Featuring survivors, scholars, and experts in the field, these webinars drew hundreds of attendees and contributed to the public conversation about timely topics. Several of these were conducted in partnership with the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, located in lower Manhattan. Videos of every webinar can be found on TOLI’s website at

Annual International Student Art Exhibit

Established in 2020, the online art exhibit is open to students of teachers who have participated in TOLI’s U.S. and international seminars. In its second year the exhibit brought in 224 submissions from six countries, in a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, and sculpture. Projects from 2021 showed students responding to learning about the history of Japanese American internment in the U.S., the complexities of Auschwitz, and the experiences of children during times of historical conflict. All artwork can be found here. TOLI’s Annual International Student Art Exhibit is supported by a grant from the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation.



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