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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


Helping Children Understand

Last week I received an interesting request from Mary Beth Goff, a public school teacher in Cairo Illinois. She teaches sixth grade and is working with her class to study and understand the Holocaust. In order for her students to complete an assignment to memorialize young victims, they need assistance from people who have knowledge of children who perished in the Shoah. If you would like to be of help, please read the letter:

Dear Friend,

My name is Mary Beth Goff and I am a sixth grade teacher in Cairo Illinois. Last year my class watched the documentary Paper Clips about a school in Whitwell, Tennessee and their study of the Holocaust. Following this, my students expressed the desire both to learn more about the Holocaust and to create their own memorial. The project was successful but felt unfinished. This year’s class will be continuing the study of the Holocaust and the project we began last year.

Let me put this in context. Cairo is a small town in southern Illinois. It has a history of decline and conflict related to racial tensions. The school has a 98% African-American student population with a free lunch rate of 100%. I have always tried to bring in topics related to human rights and social justice to broaden their worldview, however like most children of today they are very focused on themselves. They do not look outside at the plight of others, nor have they ever felt empowered to change the world. For whatever reason, I have students who are interested concerned and motivated to undertake a project of understanding, honor, and prevention. After thoughtful discussion and goal-setting, the class developed a plan. It is a plan we need help with. Our class has decided to focus on the children of the Holocaust. We are hoping to go beyond numbers and this is our plan. We are asking for a penny, just one (of course, we will accept multiple pennies if offered). For each penny we collect, we would like a name of a child who was killed during the Holocaust. If you, or anyone you know, have a story to share, along with the name, we are interested in compiling a mini-memorial to honor victims. I realize this is a lot to ask, but it would mean a great deal to my class. I am trying to teach them that this great tragedy needs to be a lesson to stop hatred and that there is a fine line between uttering the word hate and acting on it.

Our goal is to honor each victim by name with a penny. Our goal is to reach 15,000 pennies. If you do not have a name to accompany the penny, we will research and name it for you. We are interested in any stories you have to tell and will read each with honor and as a gift.

Thank you for your help please feel free to contact me for more information at mbgoff2@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page: Pennies as Promise. Please pass this letter along to family, friends, members of your congregation, or organization and anyone else who might be interested.

Sincerely,

Mary Beth Goff / 6th Grade Teacher / 4201 Sycamore, Cairo, IL 62914 / 618-924-3144