Houston Teachers Study Holocaust in Israel Thanks to New Fellowship Program

HOUSTON, TX (July 30, 2010) – A “life-changing experience” is what two Houston-area educators are calling a just-finished, three-week trip to Israel to learn about the Holocaust thanks to the Henia Leibman Fellowship at Holocaust Museum Houston.

 Warren and Jones

Wendy Warren, left and Sherilyn Jones at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Every year Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial and education center dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, selects teachers from around the globe to attend its 18-day International Seminar. Sponsors of the Leibman Fellowship fund plan to send at least two local educators each year to study with scholars at Yad Vashem as well as explore Israel with historical guides.

The first two fellows, Sherilyn Jones, a middle school English and history teacher at Torah Day School, and Wendy Warren, an 11th-grade U.S. history teacher at Hastings High School in the Alief Independent School District, left Houston for Israel on July 9 and returned July 30.

“The trip to Yad Vashem has truly been a life-changing experience,” Jones said. “The speakers I've heard and the information I've been given has certainly helped me see different and more effective ways to teach my students about the Holocaust. The program at Yad Vashem has exposed me to much information that will greatly enhance my classes.”

“The field trips I have gone on have allowed me to see sites that I had previously only read about,” she said. “One of the most moving things I've seen was at the Western Wall. We walked down there after dinner, arriving about 10:30 p.m., but the entire area was completely filled with people praying to begin the commemoration of the ninth of Av. Even as the hour got late, people continued pouring into the area in order to be a part of this holiday at the Kotel.”

Warren called it “an honor and privilege” to study at Yad Vashem. “I am learning the in-depth history of the Holocaust as well as the moral lessons we must understand in order to prevent crimes against humanity. It is truly an amazing experience. This learning experience will enrich my students’ understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust,” she said.

The fellowship was formed with a gift from John Hagee Ministries in memory of Holocaust Museum Houston founding member Henia Leibman, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, who died peacefully on March 28, 2009 at the age of 62. Hagee and his organization have worked with the Museum to create a $100,000 endowment fund that will provide support for the scholarships for educators to travel to Israel under the auspices of the Museum.

Leibman was born in Israel on July 26, 1946, to Renia and Pesach Berzak. Pesach had fought with the Russian Partisans, liberators of Nazi Germany-occupied land, for much of World War II, while her mother Renia spent 22 months in hiding after losing her father and three younger siblings to the genocide that would claim more than 6 million Jews. Escaping with her mother from the Baranowicze Ghetto in Poland, Renia hid under the floorboards of their non-Jewish friends’ house, sitting virtually unmoving for the duration of their concealment.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.

For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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