Tannenbaum tirelessly promoted Holocaust education (1/26/11)
Dan Tannenbaum was a member of what Tom Brokaw proclaimed as America's greatest generation
He served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Upon his discharge, he returned and earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in social work, which he utilized to serve a number of Jewish communities.
He married, raised a family and worked until his untimely passing.
At his funeral he was eulogized by the rabbi and his son as a gentleman, a kind and gentle man, a loving husband and father as well as a man possessed of a keen mind, a caring disposition and a dry, impish wit.
Tannenbaum was the coordinator of the Holocaust Resource and Education Center at Albright College from 1994 until his death on Dec. 16.
The Center serves as an important resource for the entire Berks County community, and Tannenbaum tirelessly promoted Holocaust education to a generation of students for whom it seemed the Vietnam War constituted ancient history.
The center houses more than 2,300 books as well as access to more than 300 videos, CDs, and DVDs. The collection includes taped interviews with local Holocaust survivors and camp liberators. It has more than 100 items suitable for use by children as well as 80 electronic books.
All of the resources are available to public and private schools, religious institutions, community organizations and individuals who want to learn more about the Holocaust.
Tannenbaum's efforts were not limited to the Albright campus and community. He was instrumental in developing and coordinating a Kristallnacht service in which the Jewish and Christian communities have come together since 1996 at Reading's Christ Episcopal Church to commemorate the Night of Broken Glass.
On Nov. 9, 1938, organized gangs of Nazis roamed unrestrained through German and Austrian cities freely attacking Jews in the homes, their places of worship, and their shops. Almost 100 Jews were killed; 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Thousands of Jewish businesses, synagogues, cemeteries, schools and homes were damaged or destroyed.
The term Kristallnacht was used to reference the enormous number of shop windows broken by the Nazi hoards when they attacked Jewish properties. Kristallnacht generally is considered to mark the beginning of the Holocaust.
At one time, Holocaust education was remarkable for its lack of nuance. Explaining the Holocaust seemed an impossibly complex task.
Educators seeking an antidote to the racial and religious hatred that fueled the Nazi regime and gave rise to the Holocaust would resort to shock tactics in which they showed students the emaciated figures of Jewish survivors staring blankly into a camera as they were photographed upon liberation from the death camps.
Students also were shown stacks of skeletal remains and the naked bodies of Jews and others who were exterminated in the crematoriums. Here were portraits of Jews stripped of their clothing, their humanity and, ultimately, their lives.
According to Carol K. Ingall, a professor of Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, these shock tactics were not effective in conveying the tragedy of the Holocaust.
Ingall, however, has emphasized that in the past 25 years there has been a profound shift in Holocaust education not only in Jewish schools but also in the public schools, in which Holocaust and genocide studies have become recent additions.
The change has been from the focus on the shock of the Holocaust to a study of the links between violence and racial, religious and ethnic intolerance as well as the importance of individual responsibility for the prevention of this violence in the future.
Tannenbaum took it as a personal responsibility and challenge to see that teachers were trained to teach Holocaust education and that schools possessed the curricular materials necessary to make that instruction relevant and meaningful in the context of today's society and world events.
Jennifer Goss, a teacher in the Fleetwood School District, has been chronicled in the Reading Eagle as a leader statewide in the field of Holocaust education. She serves as a resource for other teachers in Berks and surrounding areas; she recently helped bring a statewide conference for teachers of Holocaust education to Berks County.
Goss has been appointed as a successor to Tannenbaum as coordinator of the Holocaust Resource Center at Albright College.
Tannenbaum's work continues. Ours will also with columns on Holocaust education and its importance for today's generation of school students.
Louis M. Shucker is an attorney in private practice. He graduated from Temple University Law School and is a member of the Schuylkill Valley School Board. Dr. Joe Yarworth received his doctorate in educational administration from the University of Connecticut and serves as an assistant professor of education at Albright College.
Source: Reading Eagle, Jan 26, 2011.