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One Rural Michigan Community Responds to the Holocaust
recipients: Corey Harbaugh, Gobles Middle/High School, MI
A grant from The Memorial Library during the 2010-2011 school year was combined with a Gobles Public Schools Foundation grant to support both an intensive year-long study of the Holocaust for teachers and students, and the development of Holocaust resources for a continued focus on Holocaust and social justice education at Gobles Middle/High School. Corey Harbaugh, a leader of the Library’s Michigan Satellite Seminar, helped to lead a program in which students in grades 7 – 12 read Holocaust texts during the school year and shared their creative responses in the school and the wider community. The capstone event was a program called “One Community Responds,” a multi-disciplinary, multi-media program that included testimony by Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, and presentations to elementary and secondary students during the school day, and members of the community that night. In all, more than 1200 people attended the events in a town with a total population of 1000.
During Roth’s visit an area of shelves in the library was dedicated to books about the Holocaust and social justice education, so that students and teachers have materials and opportunities to continue to study stories like Irving’s, and the challenges and opportunities of making our world more just, compassionate, and peaceful. Irving’s own memoir about the Holocaust, Bondi’s Brother, was the first book put into the collection. The book is dedicated to Irving’s brother, Bondi, who did not survive the Holocaust.
Roth was moved to tears by his experience in Gobles: “To see my brother remembered in this small school in Michigan is an honor,” Roth said. “Almost seventy years and thousands of miles away from where he died, people will remember the story, and maybe they will use the story to create a different world. It makes me emotional, proud, and honored.” Students were likewise emotional about the experience: “You hear stories like that in the movies or in history books, but it’s not often that you get to hear from a person who was there and really experienced it,” said senior Brennan Stepanek. “Mr. Roth’s story was right in our faces, not part of a history lesson in a book or something. A real person. It was amazing.”
Since the 2011 program, Holocaust education has become a yearly part of the curriculum in three grade levels at Gobles Public Schools, rather than a short unit in just one high school course (as it had been only five years ago). The school continues to add materials to the library collection, and it now includes videos and other multimedia resources for student and teacher use.
For information about the Memorial Library’s Satellite Seminar in Michigan, click here.