In response to the events last week at Watkins Elementary, 3GDC responded with the following letter to DCPS Chancellor Ferebee.
Dear Chancellor Ferebee:
I write to you on behalf of the Board of Directors of 3GDC, an organization that represents grandchildren of Holocaust survivors in Washington, DC, and in the greater Washington area. First launched in 2011, 3GDC is a non-profit focused on a mission of education, advocacy, and community-building. In recent years, we have co-led the Washington-area’s major Holocaust Remembrance Day programs and partnered with local community organizations to deliver innovative programming around Holocaust remembrance and education.
We were greatly disturbed by the news of what happened recently at the Watkins Elementary School, where third graders were instructed to re-enact the Holocaust in a way that was inappropriate, antisemitic, and counteractive to the kind of inclusive and nurturing mission of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). We were also dismayed to hear about the swastikas previously found at Woodrow Wilson High School along with other racist graffiti. We understand that you and your staff are already taking steps to address these incidents, which must never be allowed to be repeated anywhere in DCPS. Sadly, however, they reflect an alarming rise in both antisemitism and Holocaust denial in our country that has corresponded to a decrease in understanding and awareness of the Holocaust and its place in history.
It is because of the kind of ignorance that fuels these incidents that 3GDC has taken up the mission of continuing the work of our grandparents, who survived the Holocaust and bore firsthand witness to its horrors and its lessons, by arranging for trained speakers to support the work of teachers in classrooms in our area. Our volunteers are ready to share their grandparents’ first-hand accounts of the Holocaust through engaging and age-appropriate presentations. These are designed as a supplement—not a substitute—for teacher-led Holocaust curricula and serve as an invaluable add-on to help students connect more personally with the lessons of the Holocaust when teachers reach that part of their curricula. We believe that 3GDC and DCPS can work together to help students understand the Holocaust and learn about the need to confront and overcome bigotry, racism, and intolerance in our day.
I hope you will consider sharing information with your principals and teachers about this resource that 3GDC provides. Hearing directly from those whose families survived the Holocaust and can share firsthand witness accounts is the best way to personalize lessons about this period in history for children. It enables them to ask questions and receive answers with appropriate context from those who can speak directly to the negative impact of bigotry and hatred on families, communities, and society more broadly.
We invite you to reach out anytime by emailing us at speakers@3GDC.org or visiting our website to take advantage of our trained volunteers and the other resources we provide for free throughout the greater Washington community. Our hope is that DCPS will be able to incorporate our speakers in a beneficial way, much as other schools around the region have already done, and my 3GDC colleagues and I look forward to discussing further with you and your staff how best to do so.