Teaching 20th century multicultural Greek history through Jewish family stories, promoting interreligious tolerance in the Balkans

Educational activities are strictly regulated by the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, and the ESJF developed its educational work in accordance with their requirements.

We partnered with the NGO Centropa, whose work focuses on teaching 20th century Jewish history. In cooperation with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (JCT), and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Centropa and ESJF carried out a teacher training seminar in Thessaloniki in December 2019. The event brought together 37 educators to discuss and share their experiences of teaching 20th century Jewish history.

The teacher training event took place at the Jewish Community Centre in Thessaloniki and ran from the 15th to the 16th of December 2019. The first day began with opening remarks from David Saltiel of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), Isidora Prokopiou of the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Fabian Rühle of Centropa, and Katja Grosser-Sommer of ESJF. Veteran Centropa teachers than carried out an icebreaking activity to prepare the participants for the course. A question and answer session was then led by Giorgos Antoniou, followed by a walking tour of Jewish Salonika.

After this, Fabian Rühle introduced the participants to the Centropa education programme: “Stories are universal and connect us all: How Centropa preserves 20th century Jewish history through photos & family stories”, followed by a screening of the Centropa film “A bookstore in six chapters”, and remarks from Nina Molho, narrator of the film and daughter of the family documented in it. Katerina Efraimidou then showed the participants how the film can be used as an educational tool in the classroom. Finally, a workshop was led by Branka Dimevska, entitled “Using Edmodo & Centropa in cross-cultural projects”, teaching the participants how best to take advantage of the educational software Edmodo.

The second day began with a workshop led by Eleni Hodolidou on behalf of the ESJF, entitled “How studying Jewish cemeteries can contribute to education on multicultural heritage”, in which participants were taught how to use the historical and biographical information which can be found on Jewish tombstones to teach secondary school students. Participants were then split into six groups, half of whom worked to develop lesson plans based on the story of the Molho family from Centropa’s film the previous day, while the other half worked with Centropa teachers and Eleni Hodolidou to develop lesson plans to integrate Jewish cemeteries into their teaching of Greece’s multicultural history. Afterwards, the groups were invited to share their lesson plans and receive feedback.

After the screening of another Centropa film “Survival in Sarajevo”, Centropa teachers from Thessaloniki and Skopje shared the methods they use to discuss interreligious tolerance with their students. Daniela Sterjova then introduced “Three promises”, a film about the Holocaust in Belgrade. Next, participants received a presentation on encouraging their students to research their local history through digital storytelling from Stella Kalle and Dimitris Chatzakis from Thessaloniki, after which they were split into groups to discuss how best to make students create their own projects on local Jewish history. Finally, the teachers received certification to mark the completion of the course.