Seventy years ago, Holocaust survivors Charles Middleberg and Helene Bouton were in Nazi-controlled Europe. On November 18, 2015, Middleberg and Bouton, now New Jersey residents, joined together with the Rowan community to inaugurate the new Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
The center, which will begin hosting events this year, will help serve as the academic home for Holocaust and Genocide studies in Gloucester County. The center will have an emphasis on the Holocaust, in addition to educating teachers and students on genocides in Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur and Rwanda. Dr. Stephen Hague, an instructor of history at Rowan, will be the center’s coordinator.
The November inaugural ceremony filled Boyd Recital Hall and played host to numerous distinguished guests. Among them were Paul Winkler, Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, and Tim Kaiser, deputy director of the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Winkler, who was once a teacher at Glassboro State College, opened the evening’s presentations by stating he believes the center will help Rowan be a part of the creation of a generation that will “stand up when they see evil is being done.” For Winkler, this center has been a dream of his for many years.
“For me, in my heart, this is one of the most exciting pieces of education in the last 50 years,” said Winkler.
Coming from Washington D.C. to help with the inauguration, Kaiser spoke on the importance of providing accurate, authentic, and authoritative educational experiences to young students learning about the Holocaust.
According to Kaiser, the current state of holocaust education is bleak. After a survey of over 1,500 students, Kaiser and his team concluded that “a majority of students would fail when it comes to core holocaust knowledge.”
“Students have a very simplistic understanding of the Holocaust, how it happened and how it affects their lives,” said Kaiser.
As a result of this, Kaiser said it is of the utmost importance to create and modernize new educational opportunities for students. For Kaiser, there is no better place for this movement to occur than in New Jersey, which has consistently been a leader in holocaust curriculum development for student education.
“Rowan will be a place where we can begin to help our teachers create and direct students to validated, trusted resources,” said Kaiser.
According to Hague, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is the result of a collaboration between Rowan’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences, the College of Education and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. During the first year, the center will exist virtually, with plans to host programs and events geared towards teachers.
“The goal is certainly to have an on-campus, physical center with resources available to students, as well as a robust virtual center,” said Hague. “This will include teacher curriculum guides and the development of different online courses and teacher online workshops.”
Furthermore, Hague says that the center will help build a relationship between a significant portion of the community that is often neglected.
“The kind of audience we can develop between students, staff, faculty, and the wider community has the potential to go right along with the university’s profile being raised,” said Hague.
Paul Esposito, a junior history and secondary education major, feels the center will be advantageous to both students and teachers.
“From an educational standpoint, I think it is going to be really beneficial to have a center that will offer information on genocides and how to properly utilize that information in the classroom,” said Esposito.
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