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Reflections on the First-ever California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education

By Trelasa Baratta and Jonathan Kunkel

The recent California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education Summer Institute was a unique and impactful opportunity for leaders to come together and focus on how we can improve genocide education in our schools. As educators, it was invigorating to participate, network, and learn alongside other teachers who are equally committed to bringing the difficult histories of genocides to life in their classrooms. In reflecting on our experience, we would like to share some of the highlights that we found to be particularly illuminating.

Teacher participants sitting and listening to talk by California Senator, Henry Stern.

The keynote presentation particularly caught our attention, given by State Senator Henry Stern who serves on the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education alongside Redbud’s Executive Director, Taylor Pennewell. He spoke about the importance of not treating genocides as exceptional or singular events, but rather as part of a wider history of human violence and cruelty. His words were very powerful in shaping how we plan to educate others on the California Indian genocide.

Another session that stood out to us was a workshop on teaching about racism and antisemitism in California during WWII in particular, led by Andrea Struve, EdD. As California Natives (and native Californians), we were especially empathetic to individuals and communities who did whatever they could to fight a system that dehumanized and polarized anyone who didn’t identify with the dominant group. The session was a wonderful reminder of the importance of historical representation and acknowledgement for all communities affected by genocide.

Joe, a Holocaust survivor, shares his testimony with educators from across the state of California.

The museum tours and film screening of “The Broken Promise” were amongst our favorite parts of the institute. It was so moving to walk through the Anne Frank exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance and experience the book. At the Holocaust Museum LA, we listened to Joe Alexander’s story, a man who survived 12 concentration camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau. One of the most valuable aspects of the institute was the opportunity to learn from others, and to share our knowledge. We are thrilled to have made so many new connections all across the state, and to have found resources and ideas that we can apply to our work within Indian Country. It was energizing to be in a space where everyone shared a passion and commitment to this important work.

Redbud Resource Group staff Trelasa Baratta and Jonathan Kunkel's session, introducing our NEW curriculum, called Teaching the Gold Rush & The California Indian Genocide.

Overall, the California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education Summer Institute was an incredible experience, full of insights and inspiration. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of this community of educators, and to be working towards the important goal of educating our students about the realities and tragedies of genocide. We strongly encourage all educators to consider participating in future institutes and opportunities to deepen their knowledge and engagement with this vital subject matter. Together, we can continue to make meaningful strides towards ensuring that this history is never forgotten, and that we create a more just, compassionate, and informed society for all.

Redbud Resource Group staff Trelasa Baratta and Jonathan Kunkel, with Donna Fernandez who is a High School Teacher at Piner High School in Santa Rosa, CA.

Stay tuned for the final cumulation of classroom resources curated by members of the California Teachers Collaborative:

  • Anti-Defamation League

  • Avenues for Change: Holocaust and Genocide Education

  • Cambodian Genocide Resource Center

  • Central Valley Holocaust Educators’ Network (CVHEN)

  • Facing History and Ourselves

  • Genocide Education Project

  • Holocaust Museum LA

  • Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation

  • Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center

  • Museum of Tolerance

  • Redbud Resource Group: Indigenous History and Education

  • TWIGE Project: Teaching about the Genocide in Rwanda and Guatemala

  • USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education

  • Uyghur Genocide Online Resource Center

You can be a part of this work too, by registering here for our upcoming workshop on

August 31st from 3-5pm, Teaching the Gold Rush and the California Indian Genocide!

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