These educators, including Judy Schancupp, second row-center, participated in the 2023 Advanced Seminar offered the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. (JFR)

Judy Schancupp recently returned from a three-day advanced seminar offered by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an intensive academic program for a select group of educators who are well-versed in Holocaust history.

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust staff member has attended every program offered for more than 20 years to study more focused and advanced topics relating to the Holocaust with world-renowned lecturers. She’s also attended European study programs with the organization at sites like Auschwitz, camps and ghettos.

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous has two purposes, Schancupp said. It supports people who hid Jews during the Holocaust. And it offers Holocaust education with the latest research and scholarship.

She had two big takeaways from the seminar. The first was that the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous answered the challenge of presenting Holocaust education to educators by creating a series of videos to enhance Holocaust education. It’s user-friendly and was created by teachers for teachers.

The second topic discussed at the seminar was that before the Holocaust, there were pogroms in Ukraine with more than 100,000 Jews murdered. Historically, the term refers to violent attacks by local non-Jewish populations on Jews in the Russian Empire and in other countries, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

They also learned what the National Archives offers regarding the Holocaust.

“As teachers when we get together, we have the opportunity to talk about what we’re doing in the classroom, and what works and what doesn’t work,” Schancupp said.

Her job is to go throughout the state and offer Holocaust education and tell teachers about resources that are available.

“Very often I have a Holocaust survivor with me or someone who is a child of survivors or a family member of survivors. I also have my own story to tell,” she said.

That helps and is a great impact when students hear those stories, she said.

“My favorite thing I love to do is to really go into rural Georgia into schools that don’t have the opportunity to visit museums and meet Holocaust survivors. We don’t have many left who can travel and that’s why it’s so important that people like myself and children of survivors participate in going into the classroom,” she said.

Students and teachers are not comfortable with the subject.

“It’s important that you teach it accurately and with credibility, especially as there are people out there who say this never happened,” Schancupp said.

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust can continue its work even though it doesn’t have the facility yet in Sandy Springs by going to churches or wherever they are invited. They’ve ever offered education in other states when they’ve been invited.

Educators take lessons from Holocaust survivors to handle the topic. Schancupp said she looks at the positive attitude and resilience of the people who are victims of the Holocaust.

“They are some of the most positive people I have ever met,” she said.

When Holocaust survivors tell their stories, some of them receive letters from students who said they thought their own lives were horrible until they heard the survivors’ stories. One person wrote they were thinking about suicide until they heard a Holocaust survivor’s story that changed their lives.

It’s important to remind the community that Holocaust education is relevant today, she said. By learning what people are capable of doing to other people, it becomes clear that everyone needs to be more sensitive.

Judy Schancupp visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp while on the 2019 JFR European Seminar. (Courtesy of Judy Schancupp)
Judy Schancupp in Europe during one of the JFR European seminars. (Courtesy of Judy Schancupp)

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.