A report on a pilot project in which "Facing History and Ourselves" used its understanding of history to open up students in eight Jewish day schools to the notion of expanding their circles of caring.
The Jewish Education Program at "Facing History and Ourselves" recently completed a three and a half year pilot program with eight Jewish day schools, four in the Boston area and four in the Los Angeles area, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. The goal of the program was to bring Facing History’s methodology and content across grade levels and disciplines to each of the schools in order to enrich the Jewish day school experience and reinforce the schools’ commitment to Jewish values of which Tikkun Olam is central. Using some of its core resources including The Holocaust and Human Behavior, The Jews of Poland, and Sacred Texts, Modern Questions: Connecting Ethics and History Through a Jewish Lens, Facing History offered week long seminars in which over 60 teachers from these eight schools participated with the goal of returning to the classroom where they could use the lessons of history, the values embedded in Jewish sources, and contemporary issues in order to help students make their world a more humane and compassionate one.
The author writes:
"Has this project had the desired outcomes? Evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, suggests it has (Barr, 2010; 2011). According to teacher questionnaires, the greatest impact of the program on students has been in their attitudes and behavior outside the classroom. Teachers strongly agree that “Facing History’s presence in our school has helped my students “think more carefully about the consequences of their choices.” They reported that their students are now “more likely to come to the aid of other people, even people who are not close friends and family,” and that they are more ready to “Stand up for what they believe in, even when others disagree.” In our most recent evaluation study (Barr, 2012), we looked at how well we have promoted students’ informed civic engagement grounded in Jewish values and 72% of the educators feel the presence of Facing History in their schools has increased the extent to which students have explored their Jewish identity and 66% feel Facing History has helped students make the connections between their lives and Jewish texts and lessons, including the constant theme throughout our work of Tikkun Olam."