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Israel To Teach About Holocaust in Kindergarten

Education Ministry releases new curriculum in advance of Yom HaShoah

Stephanie Butnick
April 24, 2014
Entrance to Auschwitz. (JACEK BEDNARCZYK/AFP/Getty Images)
Entrance to Auschwitz. (JACEK BEDNARCZYK/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli schoolchildren will start learning about the Holocaust in kindergarten as part of a new curriculum released by the country’s Education Ministry. JTA reports that the kindergarten curriculum was designed by a team including experts from Yad Vashem, educators, and psychologists.

According to the Education Ministry’s website, which announced the new curriculum in advance of Yom HaShoah on Sunday, “The education system is working to educate children starting from a young age about the legacy of the nation, its history and culture, and about her holidays and memorial days, as an integral part of the educational experience.”

The curriculum reportedly discourages teachers from showing students archival photographs from the Holocaust, in an attempt to begin to educate young students without overwhelming or traumatizing them. But can you really ease into Holocaust education?

Tablet’s parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall tackled the question of what age is the right age to expose children to the Holocaust—which in her case was the moment she learned her second-grade daughter had checked out a Holocaust book from her elementary school library and read it.

Ingall’s answer? It varies—and, of course, it’s complicated.

How do we figure out what kids can understand and process, and when to let them try? How do we find the balance between letting them have a childhood and giving them history? How do we get out of our own way, putting aside our own defenses and anxiety to do what’s necessary to let our kids grow up? I’ve heard my friends say that kids should be innocent; they shouldn’t know about genocide at 8, 10, 12; they should be carefree and happy. Really? We are JEWS. Our history hasn’t exactly been all carefree and happy. Wishing it so, even for 12-year-olds, is willfully naïve. And frequently kids understand more than we give them credit for.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.