Yesterday in the computer lab at the religious school where I teach I found a reaction both rewarding and disturbing at the same time. It was seventh and eighth graders that came into the lab. The teacher had actually been discussing hatred of Jews with them over the past few weeks. He wanted them to go to sites that preached Jewish hatred so they could see what others were saying.
I actually liked this assignment as it gives people a chance to see the lies that are told, the hatred that exists and how, this is something that is preached about all Jews, even those who do not identify with the religion. One problem we ran into is, not surprisingly, a number of these sites were blocked. I was able to find a few sites they could get to and we also had the students examine those sites that look to expose sites that preach hatred and prejudices.
One of the sites we were able to get to was one which claimed the Holocaust was a Jewish hoax and never really happened. The sites did show some of the images from the Holocaust. I still have not exactly figured out why a site claiming the Holocaust is fictional would include actual images but that is a topic for another time. A number of the students were reading the information and using a hand to cover up the images on the computer screen. Reading the words was fine, seeing the pictures was not.
I found it gratifying that 12, 13 and 14 year olds would find this disturbing, that it would bother them to the extent that it did. Sometimes we become so desensitized to such images it is a shame. It was, in an awkward sense, a positive experience.
On the other hand, I found it depressing that many of these students had never seen images from the Holocaust and some did not even know what it was. There was a time that no one could have started seventh grade having been that sheltered from this tragic episode of Jewish history. I think it is unfortunate that children this old are still being sheltered from the information and pictures. We must continue to be bothered by this but we must continue to make sure we are educating today’s students about these events.