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Holocaust Center’s Annual Educators’ Conference Offers Strategies on Tolerance, Empathy and Empowerment


From left, Larry Glaser, Dr. Vera Goodkin (advisory comission member), Lynne Azarchi, Dr. Diane Cambpell, Edie Sarafine, guest speakers Tasneem Sultan and Dr. Edward Avery-Natale, and Dr. Craig Coenen, co-director of the Holocaust Center. (Not pictured: guest speaker Amman).

The Center's co-director, Dr. Craig Coenen, addresed attendees at the annual Educators' Conference.

From left, Larry Glaser, Executive Director of the NJ Holocaust Commission, Social Studies teacher Mike Gerber, Kidsbridge winners Violet Vogel, Sarah Miller and Shamai Bernstein, fifth grade teacher Stephen Lillis, and Lynne Azarchi, Kidsbridge's executive director.

West Windsor, N.J. – The Mercer County Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Center at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) ended the academic year on a high note with a compelling conference on June 7 at the MCCC Conference Center. Entitled “Dispelling Stereotypes and Enhancing Diversity,” the daylong event featured several guest speakers, and provided with strategies for teachers to enhance tolerance and understanding among students from elementary school to high school. It was the second annual educators' conference named in memory of Dr. Paul Winkler, who previously served as the director of the New Jersey Holocaust Education Commission.

According to Professor of History Craig Coenen, who co-chairs the center with Edie Sarafine, the event drew 80 educators, many of whom shared feedback on the conference’s value. “One guest commented that he has been to ‘dozens of one-day Holocaust education conferences and this one ranks right up there with the best – if not the best,’” Coenen said.

Dr. Diane Campbell, MCCC Vice President for Student Affairs, welcomed attendees. “This conference is named the Dr. Paul Winkler Educators’ Conference in recognition of his efforts to promote Holocaust education in New Jersey. In times when we continue to have trouble embracing our diversity, we need to give children strategies and new layers of understanding going forward,” she said. Also providing introductory remarks was Larry Glaser, Dr. Winkler’s successor as the director of the New Jersey Holocaust Education Commission.

The kick-off for the morning was all about young people and steps they are taking to create awareness and reduce intolerance in their own communities. Lynne Azarchi, Executive Director of Kidsbridge Tolerance Center, presented awards to three youngsters: Sarah Miller, who carried out a project to raise funds for children in Rwanda; Violet Vogel, who shared the history of the Holocaust with her peers; and Shamai Bernstein, whose assignment on bullying led him to interview his grand-uncle, a Holocaust survivor. The students were nominated by their teachers, two of whom attended the conference.

Observed Azarchi, “These children provide such hope and inspiration. As educators, you have the power to inspire more kids like them.”

The speakers included Dr. Edward Avery-Natale, an MCCC Assistant Professor of Sociology whose talk was entitled “Teaching Fascism Beyond Nazi Germany.” Ms. Tasneem Sultan followed with her family’s account of living as a Muslim in New Jersey. Sultan is the co-founder and executive director of La Convivencia, a nonprofit that focuses on honoring diversity, along with shared values, in our pluralistic society. The third guest speaker was attorney Amman Seehra, whose talk was entitled “Turban Myths.” Seehra is the Northeast regional director for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Azarchi and a number of volunteers from Kidsbridge presented a workshop, “Teaching Social Emotional Skills.” The day concluded with the film “The Second Generation: Ripples from the Holocaust,” which explores the challenges faced by the children of Holocaust survivors, and a question-and-answer period.

“Our goal for this conference is to highlight issues related to social justice and respect for diversity. We hope to give educators some ideas they can take back to their schools to help youngsters become more aware and proactive in dealing with bullying, in respecting their classmates whose backgrounds are different than theirs, and in embracing principles of acceptance and trust that make a community, and a society, thrive,” Coenen said.

Mercer County Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Center

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