TOLI provides professional development seminars for educators in the US and abroad that link the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to current world events, thereby working with teachers to promote a human rights and social justice agenda in their classrooms.
The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights
In the face of the unprecedented crisis created by the pandemic, TOLI met the challenge with a wide range of online events. Indeed, both in the US and Europe, teachers were able to join TOLI seminars and connect with their peers, often beyond the traditional borders of regional and national seminars. Here are some of the highlights from the fall.
Recognizing the toll that the pandemic was taking on teachers across the US, Senior Director Sondra Perl and Associate Director Jennifer Lemberg organized a virtual reunion in October for graduates of TOLI's flagship seminar in New York City. About 100 Holocaust educators – alumni from 2006-2019 took part in the Zoom program, enabling them to update one another about their lives and how their TOLI experience continues to inform their teaching.
Diane Williams, a 2007 New York Seminar alumna, commented how the TOLI experience had a profound impact on the some 1500 students she has taught since then. She added, “It still astounds me that in examining the darkest times in our human history, I found my own humanity and a deep sense of empathy for all of mankind.”
While the annual seminar in New York was postponed to 2021, teachers held monthly online sessions featuring best practices and teaching strategies for Holocaust education. The 27 educators from around the US – specifically chosen for their leadership skills and experience – inspired each other, developing programs that responded to the challenges of online learning, and addressed anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, and other hate mongering propagated on social media. Hopes are high that this cohort will be able to meet and work together in-person next June for the pandemic-postponed New York Seminar. 
North Carolina: Moving From Inquiry
To Action
What was planned as a weeklong summer seminar for North Carolina educators was extended, at the request of the teachers, through December with monthly online meetings. Facilitating the project-based TOLI program were satellite leaders Tonya Wertz-Orbaugh and Donna Tarney. One inquiry project designed by teacher Duane Yazzie led to the creation of an introductory course on the Holocaust for adult learners living on the Navajo Nation. 
Wisconsin: Writing and Teaching,
the TOLI Way
In October, under the direction of satellite leaders Scott Lone and Amber Tilley, Wisconsin teachers continued their book study, begun in August with Olga Lengyel’s Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz, by reading and then meeting with TOLI Senior Program Director Sondra Perl to discuss her book, On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate. On their Zoom session, teachers made poignant connections between Perl’s experience as a Jewish woman teaching the descendants of Nazis and their experiences as largely white teachers working with students of color whose families have inherited the legacy of slavery and other oppressions. Their next meeting, scheduled for January 2021, will feature a discussion of Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which focuses on the housing crisis in Milwaukee.
Virginia: From Olga’s Memoir to
Classroom Experience
In October, 17 teachers from around the state joined online with Virginia satellite leaders Nicole Korsen and Jennifer Rodgers to kick off a series of monthly meetings on Holocaust education. To begin, they read Five Chimneys, Olga Lengyel’s chilling memoir about her experiences at Auschwitz, and they were introduced to TOLI’s pedagogical methods. Participants also discussed their year-long inquiry into best practices during which each teacher will engage the others in an interactive lesson. Using this format over the coming months, participants will come to know each other personally and professionally, which will prepare them for the deep learning to come in the June 2021 seminar, Bringing Human Rights into the Classroom through Exploration of the Holocaust and Virginia's History of Racial Injustice.
Holocaust Survivor in Jerusalem Speaks
to Students in New Mexico
On November 18, a total of 96 teachers, parents, and students, most from East Mountain High School near Albuquerque, New Mexico, gathered on Zoom to hear Giselle Cycowicz speak from her home in Jerusalem about her experiences as a young Jewish girl in Czechoslovakia who, at the age of 17, was sent to Auschwitz along with her parents and sisters. Gita, as she likes to be called, spoke for almost two hours, describing hunger and fear and loss as if she were back in that dark time and place, recounting the long hours standing on roll call, the life-threatening selections, the meager food, and the bone-chilling cold. The program was arranged by TOLI satellite leader Susan Quintana, who met Gita during a trip to Israel, and Stephanie Schuette who, after hearing Gita in her own TOLI seminar in New Mexico, wanted to bring Gita's story to her students. At the end of the heart-wrenching session, one student asked Gita how she could remain hopeful while in Auschwitz. Gita replied, "I never lost my hope in God. It was man who disappointed me." Gita was physically liberated on May 8, 1945, but she said, "I only experienced true liberation many years later when I began telling my story."
TOLI wrapped up its 2020 programs in Europe with an eight-week, transnational seminar for teachers from 15 countries, “Holocaust Education and Human Rights.” Other programs, almost all virtual this year, were organized for teachers in Portugal, Poland, Romania and Moldova, Lithuania, and Ukraine. In addition, dozens of mini-grants, requested by TOLI alumni to fund student projects on the Holocaust and its lessons, were awarded to schools in Europe. Under the leadership of International Program Director Oana Nestian-Sandu, TOLI has become one of the leading Holocaust education organizations in Europe.

This 'word cloud,' featured below, was created based on the responses of European teachers to the TOLI Transnational Seminar.
For $1500, you can enable a teacher to attend a TOLI seminar in 2021. Or please consider contributing to our mini-grant program to support innovative Holocaust education projects in schools. In the US, donations to TOLI are tax deductible. All donations will be matched if given before the end of the year. 


Please support TOLI programs, enabling thousands of teachers in the US and Europe to educate their students about the Holocaust and the corrosive effects of intolerance and hatred. 

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