Holocaust Education Seminar in Michigan Teachers Hear from Survivors, Visit Armenian Center


This July in Farmington Hills, Michigan, 16 educators gathered and bring the Holocaust back to the forefront of education during a week-long intensive seminar. Now in its seventh year, the seminar is one of many taking place across the country this summer, organized and sponsored by the Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI). Teachers from across Michigan and nearby states will have the opportunity to meet with Holocaust survivors, hear their testimonies, and engage in new pedagogical principles to bring these experiences back to their classrooms.

The Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus is the venue of the week-long seminar. Corey Harbaugh and John Farris, the seminar leaders, emphasize how they benefit from the Center’s many resources on the Holocaust and its vast network of Michigan survivors. The teachers, “many of whom have never knowingly met a Jewish person before,” said Farris, are presented with many opportunities to delve deep into the Holocaust and reflect their thoughts through writing during the process.

A new education mandate in Michigan was passed in 2016, requiring students from Grades 6 to 12 to receive at least six hours of Holocaust and genocide education. This year, in addition to the Holocaust, teachers also had an opportunity to learn more about the Armenian Genocide at the Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum in Southfield, Michigan. Participants made connections between the experiences of survivors and learned how to integrate testimonies into their teaching, a vital component of TOLI’s professional development model.

While focused on genocide, the seminar also provided teachers with tools that are indispensable in all aspects of their growth as educators, Farris remarked. “When the teachers leave, they don’t say they know feel like they’re better holocaust educators, they say that they’re better teachers entirely.”

The professional development continues after the seminars, when teachers can access mini-grants of amounts up to $1,000 to support projects that bring Holocaust and social justice education to wider audiences. TOLI’s impact on teachers is palpable well after they have returned to the classroom.

The Olga Lengyel Institute is a New York-based organization. Named after a survivor of Auschwitz who dedicated her legacy to education. The mission of TOLI is to educate students in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world about human rights and social justice through the lens of the Holocaust and other genocides so that such atrocities may never again take place.

To accomplish its mission, TOLI provides professional development seminars for educators in the US and abroad that link the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to current world events, thereby working with teachers to promote a human rights and social justice agenda in their classrooms.


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

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