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Holocaust Remembrance Lecture Series with Mike Soffer

May 12, 2021 @ 7:00 PM CT - May 12, 2021 @ 8:00 PM CT


Mike Soffer, MA

Mike Soffer is a veteran teacher at Oak Park & River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL.  A graduate of Brandeis University, Mike received his MA in Literature from DePaul University.  Mike has taught US History, Psychology, Sports and Resistance in American History, and Holocaust Studies, which he created and developed.  Mike’s writing has been published in The Forward, and he has developed curriculum for the College Board’s AP US History program, the Newberry Library, the Chicago Jewish Historical Society, and Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.


The Holocaust in the Classroom: History, Activism, and Upstanding

In the fall of 2018, after a slew of other antisemitic and racist hate crimes on campus, a student at Oak Park & River Forest (OPRF) High School airdropped a swastika during an assembly. In the aftermath, OPRF history teacher Michael Soffer created and implemented a Holocaust Studies elective course, one of the few Holocaust elective courses in a public high school. Soffer’s course addressed the widespread reality that, though terms like the “ghettos,” “camps,” and “genocide” have become part of our lexicon, Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust is often shallow.  At the same time, the Holocaust is a powerful and vital topic that fosters critical thinking and provides students with a lens to study the fragility of democracy, the power of empathy, and the nature of evil – especially when the curriculum focuses on individuals’ stories. This talk will discuss how and why Holocaust education is a uniquely powerful tool to reducing antipathy towards the other, how Holocaust education can be used to promote empathy and upstanding, and will consider the issues and problems that arise in teaching and discussing the Holocaust and genocide in the classroom.

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