Calgary Jewish Federation is proud to pilot the Washington Holocaust and Human Rights Studies Program. The program objectives are to promote respect for others and sensitize grade nine and 10 Canadian students to the consequences of racism through a specially designed education program. This program is based on the successful Asper Foundation program which started in 1997 in Winnipeg, Canada is inclusive of students from all backgrounds. It was the recipient of the 2004 Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission “in recognition of (its) creative means of advancing and protecting human rights and working to address racism in our communities”and other esteemed awards.
All students are required to take an 18-hour education program, or its equivalent, on human rights and the Holocaust with an added emphasis on the current events. The curriculum for the educational component of the program was developed specifically by Holocaust and human rights educators for The Asper Foundation. After the educational component is completed, students participate in a trip to Washington, DC, where they spent several days at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and other important monuments relating to freedom.
The students are also required to volunteer for 12 - 16 hours in their communities on public projects that meet program requirements. This has resulted in over 145,000 hours of community service being carried out across Canada since the program was established by the Asper Foundation.
Signing the Memorandum:
The last component of the program is an evening graduation ceremony held to present a Memorandum for Personal Responsibility to each student. It is based on a document which was commissioned by The Asper Foundation specifically for this program and written by Dr. Israel Asper. The Memorandum aims to provide each student with a sense of the importance that they participated in the program and to remind them that they have a personal responsibility for the world community. The ceremony is a wonderful way to provide the students with closure to the formal part of the program as well as the sense that they are now beginning a new life of greater understanding and inclusion.
The Effects of the Program:
Past student program participants have remarked “I will remember the trip for my whole life. It gave me a different view of the world”, “As I speak to people now, I realize the true meaning and importance of bearing witness”, “You have no idea how much this experience meant to us all” and “By being educated about these tragic events in history, people will be more motivated to stop what is happening now.”
The value of this program is reflected in the support it receives across the country by private and public foundations, organizations and individuals who understand its importance. Another measure of the program’s value is the fact that in Washington, DC, for several years, Congressman Tom Lantos (1928-2008), the only Holocaust survivor elected to the U.S. Congress, met with and spoke to program participants about the importance of understanding and protecting human rights. Congressman Lantos described the program as “outstanding.”
For more information please email Ilana Krygier-Lapides or call her at 403-444-3162.