ESJF has teamed up with Centropa, an NGO that focuses on Jewish education, to organise a seminar for 35 secondary school educators in Greece. Titled “Teaching 20th century multicultural Greek history through Jewish family stories, promoting interreligious tolerance in the Balkans”, the seminar invited participants to develop approaches to bring Jewish history to the classroom by focusing on Jewish heritage sites – including cemeteries. The seminar was carried out in the framework of ESJF’s ongoing pilot project, co-funded by the European Commission.
The seminar took place on 15th and 16th of December in Thessaloniki. Organised in partnership with the Central Board of the Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (JCT) under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, it was co-funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the European Commission. The collaboration between the organisations proved to be fruitful, and can be seen as a forerunner of the continued collaboration that will take place under the grant titled “Protecting the Jewish cemeteries of Europe: Continuation of the mapping process, stakeholders’ involvement and awareness raising”.
ESJF contributed significantly to the seminar by focusing on the potential that Jewish cemeteries offer for teaching Jewish history. Assisted by Eleni Hodolidou of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, teachers developed lesson plans to integrate Jewish cemeteries into their lesson plans. These were then presented alongside the material Centropa uses to teach 20th century Jewish history in Greece and the Balkans. A walking tour of the Jewish sites of Thessaloniki gave the educators a more rounded perspective of Jewish material heritage in the urban context of contemporary Greece, while a lecture on the challenges of teaching the Holocaust in Greece helped prepare them for the potential issues they might face dealing with such a sensitive subject in the classroom. In order to give the teachers space to tailor their lesson plans to their own students, the seminar adhered to a workshop format.
Stella Kalle, a teacher from the Jewish School of Thessaoloniki, said of the seminar: “It was an interesting, thought-provoking, and most of all interactive seminar about the Jewish life in the Balkans. It’s not only about the knowledge you get, it’s more about the inspiration you gain cooperating with other educators that have the same interests and share the same values about tolerance and diversity.”