Friends of Yad Vashem in Panama Plan Integration of IWitness Into Educational Resources

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 5:00pm

USC Shoah Foundation is rounding out its Latin American partnerships with Friends of Yad Vashem, Panama. Five members of the educational nonprofit started working with USC Shoah Foundation education staff last week to develop resources in IWitness for Panamanian students and teachers.

Glory de Setton, Perla Lalo, Perla Cohen, Margie Harari and Dalia Nelkenbaum Mizrachi spent three days at USC Shoah Foundation’s office in Los Angeles last week to develop capacity for accessing testimony in IWitness, develop testimony-based educational content for local educators, and establish plans, expectations and the timeline for the partnership. USC Shoah Foundation hosted a similar visit with educational partners from Guatemala and Chile the previous week.

Friends of Yad Vashem, Panama, is geared toward providing Holocaust educational materials, teacher trainings, and an annual trip to the March of the Living Holocaust commemoration in Poland to local educators and students. The nine members of the group (five of whom came to USC Shoah Foundation) all run Friends of Yad Vashem in addition their day jobs.  Among the nine members, there are three teachers, two graphic designers, psychologists , financial managers, business women and daughters of Holocaust survivors. 

Aliza Liberman, member of the USC Shoah Foundation Board of Councilors,  first introduced Friends of Yad Vashem, Panama, to IWitness. USC Shoah Foundation staff visited Panama last year and began discussing the ways Friends of Yad Vashem could utilize IWitness in its educational programming.

Back row from left: Lesly Culp, Glory de Setton, Kori Street, Stephen Smith, Perla Lalo, Claudia Weideman. Front row from left: Perla Cohen, Dalia Nelkenbaum Mizrachi, Margie Harari

After just a day and a half of meetings with USC Shoah Foundation education staff, including deep dives into IWitness, its features and how to construct new activities, the group already had half a dozen ideas for ways to use IWitness in Panama.

They want to incorporate testimonies from IWitness into the one-year seminar that students take leading up to their trip to the March of the Living each April; lessons on the Holocaust and other related topics geared toward non-Jewish schools; a teacher seminar at the Ministry of Education; and a seminar for community members.

They were also inspired by the 100 Days to Inspire Respect program last year, in which a new educational resource was published on IWitness every day for 100 days, and want to create something similar that relates more specifically to values that will resonate in the Panamanian context.

Finally, the group is interested in incorporating testimonies into resources for elementary school students, including through the use of Lala, the Institute’s virtual reality film, and they’d like to show testimonies during the March of the Living trip.

The resources will be mostly in Spanish, with some in English.

The group agreed that the amount of testimonies available to them in IWitness was overwhelming at first, but they are eager to introduce them to students. Since each testimony tells the survivor’s complete life story before, during and after the Holocaust, they feel students can learn not just about history, but also core values of tolerance and civic participation. The fact that it’s free and available to anyone in the world is also a huge plus.

“IWitness is a great new tool for us that we didn’t know we had access to,” Cohen said. “It will be great to share this and tell other teachers about it.”

Robin Migdol