Each year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Los Angeles holds a special program for its officers on diversity and inclusion. This year, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, training officer Caroline D’Angelo brought in someone new to speak to her staff: USC Shoah Foundation Director of Education Kori Street.
Street gave a presentation titled “Listen and Listen Again: Thinking About Testimony and Tolerance” for over 50 staff who work with people who have been granted asylum, including genocide survivors, refugees, and victims of domestic violence. D’Angelo said she heard about USC Shoah Foundation from a colleague who had read a newspaper article about the Institute, and asked Street to design a presentation for her staff.
Street showed testimony clips of survivors including Hedy Epstein, Coenrad Rood and George Papanek, highlighting how survivors move on after genocide, how hate can grow, and the importance of tolerance.
D’Angelo said she was amazed by how many people attended the presentation, especially given that there had been trainings all day and Street’s was during their lunch break. She said her employees “loved” it, and many didn’t want to leave. Even some officers who aren’t normally outspoken came up to Street and D’Angelo after the presentation and remarked that it had really made them think.
The presentation taught the officers the importance of being sympathetic and really listening to the stories of the people they work with, D’Angelo said. It made them realize what people who have been affected by genocide and violence go through, and that people who may seem different are really not that different at all.
“It made them think about the areas of the world where violence is going on and what they can do to be more tolerant of people,” D’Angelo said.
D’Angelo hopes to have Street back for more training sessions and presentations with different groups and departments.
“This opened a lot of employees’ eyes,” she said. “But this is just the beginning.”