Year-End Reflection from TOLI Executive Director, Deborah Lauter


I first learned about the Holocaust in my ninth grade world history class in Sacramento. My teacher put a picture of Hitler up on a screen, pointed at me and said, “You’re a Jew. Tell the class about the Holocaust.” You can imagine my humiliation at being singled out in that way—compounded with the fact that I knew very little about the Nazi genocide. My parents (not unlike many first-generation American Jews) had not spoken of the close to 200 members of my family who perished.

I imagine that my teacher thought he taught the Holocaust. I have always had mixed feelings about efforts to mandate Holocaust education, because after my high school experience I know full well how it is taught is critically important. I also now know that there has not been sufficient support for teachers to get it right. That is why after a career in civil and human rights, this past September I enthusiastically accepted the position of Executive Director of The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI).

TOLI has become one of the most highly-regarded Holocaust education programs for teachers. Close to 4,000 educators have attended TOLI’s intensive seminars in the U.S. and throughout Europe, primarily in states and countries where there has been little or no quality Holocaust education. Teachers can be overwhelmed by the quantity of resources available online and by the daunting task of teaching this challenging subject. TOLI’s unique pedagogy provides them with the skills and confidence to make their courses relevant for today’s students.

All TOLI seminars include sessions on vibrant Jewish history and culture before and after the Holocaust, so that teachers (the majority of whom are not Jewish) don’t see Jews just in the context of being victims. Our participants learn how to break down stereotypes and how to guide students to confront antisemitism and all forms of prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination.

We are at a critical juncture in history when the number of survivors and knowledge of the Holocaust are decreasing; while antisemitism, extremism, and Holocaust disinformation and denial are increasing. We are also at a time when teachers are being prevented from teaching about racism, and books are being banned. Holocaust education–when done well— provides a lens through which teachers can lead their students to examine their role in civil society to stand against hate.

TOLI graduates regularly tell us that our seminars are the best professional development they have ever had—some even say life-changing–and that our programs are having a significant impact in their classrooms and communities. I truly believe that Holocaust and human rights education is one of the most important keys we have to ensuring that democracy thrives here and in Europe.

TOLI provides all our programs without charge to teachers. Your gift to TOLI is critically important and much appreciated. 

Best wishes for Happy Holidays and a Safe and Healthy 2023. 


For more information about The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), please contact

TOLI is located at 58 East 79th Street in Manhattan. (get directions)