Now that Flower Hill resident Dinah Kramer has retired after more than 30 years of teaching deaf and hearing-impaired students at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens, she is focusing on another educational topic: the Holocaust.
Kramer in July was among the 244 attendees of the three-day Arthur and Rochelle Belfer National Conference for Educators at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
“I was totally blown away by the fact that I was in a minority, by being Jewish,” she said. “There were teachers from all over with different backgrounds and working with different populations, from tiny little schools to Christian schools and charter schools, public schools. It was amazing to meet these colleagues who were coming together to see the importance of Holocaust education.”
Kramer is the daughter of survivors: her father, Elias Gole, was imprisoned at Auschwitz and various other concentration camps, and her mother Sara Albirt was in labor camps.
A member of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore in Manhasset, Kramer has begun working with the Holocaust center at Temple Judea and its “adopt-a-survivor” program, a youth program in which survivors share their stories.
“Before you teach anything, you have to know it really well, so I had to firm up my knowledge base,” Kramer said. “Those of us who are second-generation [Holocaust survivors], it’s important we learn to tell our parents’ stories. I needed to do my research.”
At the conference, Kramer and her classmates studied historical and educational texts and were given full access to the museum and its exhibits.
They also met with Holocaust survivors and were lectured by leading scholars and academics.
“In the face of rising Antisemitism and holocaust denial, educating students about this history is becoming increasingly urgent,” said Peter Fredlake, the director of the museum’s teacher education and special programs.
“As the global leader in holocaust education, the museum works to ensure teachers have the training and resources they need to introduce their students to this important and complex history — and to show them how its lessons remain relevant to all citizens today,” he added.
Among the more fascinating topics covered during the conference was an in-depth look at the spread Nazi propaganda, Kramer said, adding that remnants of strategies employed by the Germans are used in modern advertising.
“History repeats itself, as trite as it sounds, and we live in a very scary world right now,” she said. “People ask how could this happen, and a lot of this stuff is still happening today, right under our noses. Kids need to be more cognizant of what’s going on around them.”