Reclaiming Our Humanity: Jackson Mississippi


In Jackson, MS, 20 teachers joined in an effort to restore, repair, and reclaim humanity at the 2nd annual TOLI seminar, Reclaiming Our Humanity: Lessons of the Holocaust for Today. Teachers made connections between the anti-Jewish laws of Nazi Germany and the oppressive Jim Crow laws that were enforced in the Southern United States during the same time period.

The seminar drew educators from Mississippi, as well as North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Maryland.

Mississippi Civil Rights veterans Hollis Watkins, MacArthur Cotton, and Flonzie Brown Wright shared their compelling accounts of fighting for equality then and now. Bruce Klasner of the local Jewish community gave a moving account of his parents, who were both Holocaust survivors.

“Mississippi needs TOLI because our students deserve awareness,” said Kalea White of Rankin County School District.

Sharon Miles performed her one-person play, Let It Shine: A Visit with Fannie Lou Hamer, and participants were privileged to have an intimate look into the life of Fannie Lou Hamer.

On Friday, participants were welcomed by Beth Israel Congregation where Rabbi Dreffin gave us insight into Jewish life before and after the Holocaust. After touring Beth Israel, participants partook in a traditional Shabbat dinner.

Saturday participants met at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum for a writing marathon where Jo Ivester joined us through a video conference to explain the concept of Tikkun Olam and to share her life story of growing up Jewish in Mound Bayou, MS.

“I could not have hoped for a better group of educators to come together to share Olga’s Mississippi table. This week we have laughed, cried, sang, danced, broken bread, hugged, fussed, and hugged again—we have forged a bond, we have Reclaimed Our Humanity. #neveragain is Mississippi Strong.” ~Tracei Willis, co-leader.


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)