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Classrooms Without Borders

What our participants have to say...

Balarie Hyman Zatzman / Teacher / York University
Berlin to Prague: A Study Seminar

I knew little about Israel before the study seminar. Thanks to the trip, I now have thousands of images and memories that begin to hint at the many Israels. Israel, like many places on earth, is many things to many people. We were exposed to present day realities from the many people we met and Avi’s thoughtful understanding of the past and present. In contrast to the historical Israel is the Israel of the present, prospering greatly economically and culturally, while suffering the pains of being on and off at war, we were able to see the everyday Israel through the eyes of the family we stayed with. We were touched by our hosts’ generosity and moved by their anguish at having their oldest son, a soldier, stationed in Gaza.

Barry Shields / Teacher / Penn State Greater Allegheny/University of Pittsburgh Greensburg
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

This trip goes way beyond museum maps and memorial plaques. It was a journey into diverse and thought-provoking ideas, with extended conversation over meals and on the bus – intense inquiry all day long. Now I can share ideas, projects, resources and lesson plans with a whole new network of fellow history teachers. This trip made history personal for me, and it encouraged our group – and, by extension, our students – to not just learn but to take action in the world.

Christie Knable / Teacher / Sewickley Academy
Berlin to Prague: A Study Seminar

I fell in love with a family and their children. Broke bread at they're table and watched movies with them at night. Laughed at jokes, tried to be a translator and even got to see an old friend in Karmiel. These are moments that I will never forget for a lifetime.

Julie Lewinter / Teacher / Beth Shalom Early Learning Center
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

Jamie Jennings / Teacher / Wheeling Central Catholic High School
Berlin to Prague: A Study Seminar

In both history and literature, the places that we read about are only as real as our imaginations. Yet, when we visit the actual environments of places, including places that can testify horrors like those of the Holocaust, we realize, as both students and educators, that the definition of "real" has a more visceral, more biting connection to human empathy than any book or written work could possibly hope to attain.

Christopher Irving / Teacher / Beacon College
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Krista Wagner / Teacher / Mt. Lebanon School District
Berlin to Prague: A Study Seminar

The aspect of the trip that sticks with me most is Howard Chandler dancing in the streets at the Jewish music festival ... this made me reflect more deeply on how fragile and seemingly unpredictable life can be. After all, the fact that a boy who was destined to die in a country that was invaded and seemingly lost to Germany could now be a spry older man celebrating life was extremely moving. It gave me hope that the human spirit can survive any hardship.

Ron Sivillo / Teacher / Upper St. Clair
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Linda McDonald Joseph / Teacher / Shadyside Academy
Berlin to Prague: A Study Seminar

Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland far exceeded my expectations!  Classrooms Without Borders definitely put together a extremely organized trip with a very thorough itinerary and great resources. We not only studied history, we witnessed history in the making on a number of occasions. The diversity of the group was amazing. The information that Avi, our scholar and guide, taught us blew me away. Having Holocaust Survivor, Howard Chandler, and his family with us meant a lot to me.

There are so many stories to take back to my students and so much to discuss about what Poland is like today. We will discuss how groups in society interact and what we need to do to understand each other and live together, why conflicts result in societies and when conflict resolution does not work, the ethical issues-why we need to speak up, what makes a “righteous person”? How should we study the Holocaust?

LuAnn Warner-Prokos / Teacher / St. Andrew’s School, Boca Raton, FL
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I think I have a lot more respect now for Israelis as a people. It's not that I lacked respect for them before this trip, but now I feel like I can relate to the mentality and can better explain it for those who do not yet understand it.

Rebecca Abramowitz / Teacher
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

Classroom learning has a way of sterilizing topics, often diluting them to dates, numbers, or anecdotal remembrances. Travel allows the learner a more authentic vision of past events. Walking among the Memorials spoke to us in a way it is difficult to explain. The raw emotions, the sharp edges, the horrors of the bones, and the beauty of the spirit resonated at every juncture. This learning was not orchestrated, not a prepared lecture, or even a lesson designed to maximize student engagement; it was a moment in time when we saw the ghosts of the past, heard them whisper to us, felt their breath on our necks, and the wet sting of their tears.

Ellen Resnek / Teacher / Downingtown East High School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Without traveling to Poland, I could have never sensed the vastness of the terror that Jewish and Polish peoples must have felt under the Third Reich. I won't claim that I now understand that terror, but I at least know that the terror is unknowable to me. Our itinerary appropriately outlined the chronology of incrementalism; first Jewish people lose their rights, they're put into a ghetto, they're removed from plazas in their towns, they're murdered in camps. Seeing these sites with scholars and a survivor made the Shoah a human story for me, rather than an academic one. This could have never been communicated to me via photographs or printed texts, and I'm so grateful that I got to experience it with a survivor; in the coming years, such an experience will be impossible.

Kate Lukaszewicz / Teacher / Sewickley Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I came home feeling more connected to my history. Listening to Avi’s words as I was standing at Masada, the Southern Wall, and at the City of David – looking over the land, feeling the heat, thinking about how innovative my ancestors were, imagining how passionate they must have been; the stories and history that I learned since my religious school days became part of my identity instead of merely facts in my head. Seeing the rocks, at the museum in Masada, with the Hebrew names etched into them that were used to decide who dies first- made this piece of history so personal.

Merril Nash / Teacher / Beth El Religious School
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

The collaboration among teachers was such a vital part of the learning. Experiencing the sights and sounds of Israel was so much richer because we shared each other's excitement and reactions. The interaction with Israeli students was so natural, in spite of the language barriers.

Gail Schmitt / Teacher / Director at Adat Shalom Preschool
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

I was told that this Study Seminar in Israel would be life-changing. I now realize the true meaning of that descriptor, as it includes changing my knowledge of history, geography, and archaeology; my attitudes toward culture, personal narrative, and resilience; my ways of thinking about conflict, continuity, and trust; my ways of feeling about who I am as an educator, a Catholic, and an American – in short, changing the very foundation of my ground truths.  I truly experienced the mission of Classrooms Without Borders first hand.

Robin Newham / Teacher / Director of the Ellis Upper School
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

Dear Tsipy,

After viewing the piece about your inspiring work on WQED the other evening, I wanted to let you know how much you have changed my life. I met you at the Holocaust Center in 2004, and you helped me to get funding for my trip to Poland in 2005 with you. Since then, I've attended both the Belfer and Next Step Conferences at the USHMM in addition to any other workshop or conference available in the area. In addition to teaching about the Holocaust in my classroom, I've presented to various community groups. Last week I conducted a workshop at the National Catholic Education Convention held here in Pittsburgh. Many people approached me from all over the country who are also interested in spreading the stories and lessons of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Education has become my passion. I've continued to grow a small library of books and videos to share with kids and adults alike. I spend hours watching video and researching online to enhance lessons and find new material.

Thank you so much for changing my life. Please continue to inspire others as you did me.

Sally Gooch / Teacher
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I stood on the train tracks at Birkenau that transported millions of innocent people to their deaths. I touched the barbwire fence and saw how it stretched on and on across the fields around the bunkers. I stood in one of the bunker houses and listened to Howard, a man who survived that horrible place, share his stories. I have seen with my own eyes the millions of shoes usurped by the Nazis at Auschwitz. I walked through the gas chambers at Majdanek and saw the blue stains on the wall. I stood under the showers where thousands of people took their last breath. I walked through the crematoriums. I stood in front of the ashes and bones. Being on site allowed me to experience history in a deeper more impactful way that I could not have learned in a classroom setting....The CWB travel seminar to Poland has strengthened my resolve to teach students to learn from our past, to think critically and empathetically, to maintain open­ minds that help them learn and understand others' perspectives and to value the diversity that our humanity brings.

Kathy Galecki / Teacher / Avonworth Middle School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

With the current disregard ranging to hatred of cultures other than one's own that permeates not only the Middle East but much of the world, the desperate need to preserve and protect these cultures has never been more immediate. The fact that much of what we saw in Israel might never have been discovered, appreciated or preserved under different circumstances is incomprehensible to one who values all human life and the journey humans have been on.

Lynn Horton / Teacher / Winchester Thurston
2016 Israel Archeology Study Seminar: Discovering The Past Civilization

I approached this visit as one of artistic inquiry, specifically pertaining to Berlin's approach to memorializing a vast, overwhelming epoch. How does one turn something intangible into concrete and meaningful art without undermining the significance of the subject? I took away an unforgettable lesson in German humanity: culture, hospitality, struggle and triumph. I also know myself better as a Jew.

Sarah Rubin / Teacher / Shadyside Academy
Germany Close Up

Sarah Sturdvant / Teacher / Art Teacher, The Ellis School
Berlin to Prague: A Study Seminar

The seminar was very well planned and balanced Jewish, Christian and Muslim sites. It was amazing to hold artifacts from 2300 BCE in my hands! The experience that I will cherish is when we walked to the Western Wall on the Sabbath in Jerusalem. While were walking back to the hotel, we could hear the Orthodox Jewish prayers from the Western Wall, the Muslim call to prayer and the church bells ringing at the same time. It was a very powerful experience that I will never forget.

Colleen Newman / Teacher / Old Trail School
2016 Israel Archeology Study Seminar: Discovering The Past Civilization

Participation in the 2014 CWB Israel Study Seminar was a a tremendous privilege. It was fascinating to walk the Bible stories of my youth, to experience the cultural and political climate, and to meet with people from the various ethnic and religious groups of the region. The experience broadened my global perspective on the issues surrounding the Middle East and around the world.

Nancy Aloi Rose / Teacher / Superintendent, Bethel Park School District
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

"Visiting Poland changed my view of the Holocaust from an event studied in history to a personal experience that affected millions of people's lives...people, not faceless numbers in a history book."

Melissa DeSimone / Teacher / Avonworth Middle School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Administrators benefit from the experience by gaining a broader understanding of cultural differences among students and their families. They gain greater insight and support for the importance of including multi-cultural curriculum in their schools. Travel abroad also provides opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, and cultural sensitivity which are vital skills for administrators.

Nancy Aloi Rose / Teacher / Superintendent, Bethel Park School District
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

My experience will inspire me to be a better teacher because I can describe first hand the lump in my throat and chest when I walked into the crematoria. I had a physical reaction to being there. I couldn't catch my breath to know so many had perished and been in that same room.

Whitney Conjeski / Teacher / PA Cyber
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

One of the greatest benefits of the trip was developing solid relationships with teachers within my own community. It's not very often that we have an opportunity to join forces with teachers from other schools within our community, but I am so inspired and moved by my experiences with women who have been living right here in my own backyard! I hope to continue to develop these relationships.

Rebecca Abramowitz / Teacher
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

When Dr. Tsipy Gur told me that I would be joining her on the Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel expressly designed for educators, I could not imagine the impact that it would have on me as a teacher of literature. As a religious studies minor in college, I took several courses that explored Jewish history and thought as well as the enduring questions of the Holocaust, courses which I found fascinating, challenging, and inspiring. But for me, current day Israel was an abstraction, a land that I only knew through newspaper headlines and brief clips of footage on CNN. As a result, I had developed a myopic understanding of Israel as a country filled with arid land and ancient cities brimming with war and conflict.

In the literature and writing courses that I teach, I constantly urge my students to move beyond simple explanations and categorizations of characters and plotlines. I aim to communicate the idea that great literature calls upon us to delve into the gray areas of life, to explore and analyze characters and situations from various vantage points in order to develop a fuller understanding of a person's motivations, desires, and actions. However, before leaving for Israel, I fell short of my own ideals. No matter what words of reassurance were offered to me by Dr. Gur and others at our informational meetings before the trip, I could not shake some of the biases that I held due my blind acceptance of the media's limited and simplistic portrayal of the nation.

Much to my surprise, Israel was nothing like I expected. Upon leaving Ben Gurion airport, I was shocked to see the rolling hills of green and the vibrant life of the holy city of Jerusalem and the modern city of Tel Aviv. As we boarded our tour bus for the first time, I resolved myself to explore the city with the depth of analysis that I expect from my students in their study of literature. I would try every food, visit to every site, and endure every challenge posed to me over the next few weeks. By the end of my tour of Israel, I accomplished everything that one could hope to on a first trip to the region. I explored Hezekiah's tunnels in the City of David and the labyrinthine streets of Jerusalem's Old City, prayed at the Western Wall, hiked the rocky fortress of Masada, floated on the Dead Sea, visited Independence Hall and studied the art of various museums. As a Christian I found it quite powerful to travel the footsteps of the historical Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane and then to the Sea of Galilee.

Under the guidance of Avi Ben Hur, a learned scholar and a captivating educator, whose love and respect for the country radiated throughout his detailed lectures on the historical sites that we visited, I became captivated by the richness of the country's history and the diversity of its geography. In particular, Avi intrigued me with his explanation of stratigraphy, a type of archaeology that focuses on the layering of rocks and sediment as a means for understanding historical progress and evolution. I ultimately saw this field of study as a key to understanding the history of Israel.

I began to see storytelling in a different light, as I witnessed how Israel's history was written in the layers of its architecture. In "Ecology of Jerusalem," a poem by Yehuda Amichai, who is perhaps the most renowned and beloved poet of Israel, the poet describes this phenomena in stating that "from time to time a new shipment of history arrives / and the houses and towers are its packing materials." Especially within the Old City, one can find various instances in which the architecture of Jerusalem's former Muslim rulers rests upon that of the medieval era which is piled onto that of the Herodian era. Viewing the interplay between these various styles of design, I wrestled with the question as to how literature could accomplish a similar effect. The knowledge imparted to me by Avi sent my mind into an intellectual frenzy, and after several days of the trip, my head was swimming with names, dates, graphs, maps, and ideas for integrating my experiences into my academic discipline. However, by the second week of the tour, I quickly realized that I had been predominantly viewing the country from a purely intellectual lens and that I had neglected the importance of the individuals who populated the city streets that I traversed. For that I would need to return to literature.

One of the few books that I took along with me to Israel was a collection of poems by Yehuda Amichai, which I had planned to read each day of the trip. However, as a result of the tour's rigorous schedule, I did not find time to return to Amichai's work until I spend the final weekend with a young family in Misgav where I celebrated Shabbat. On the final day of my stay, I came across the poem below, which spoke to me far more profoundly than any others that I had read.

Tourists

Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.

Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David's Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family."

Amichai's poem played an essential role in helping me to process all that I experienced during my two weeks in Israel. By the time I had arrived at the home of my host family for the final three days of my trip, my peers and I had visited nearly all of the locations that Amichai mentions in his poem. With our overstuffed backpacks, our embarrassingly large hats, our multiple layers of sunscreen, and our cameras constantly emitting flashes, we had "tourist" written all over our bodies, and we were dangerously close to being the subjects of Amichai's critique. However, as Amichai insinuates within his poem, among the myriad styles of architecture, the bustling streets, and those impressive rolling hills of Israel are stories of men and women just waiting to be told, and had we not taken the time to interact with those who have made this country their home—Arab and Israeli, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim— we would have returned to our own country as tourists with nothing more than pictures, souvenirs, and pockets full of unspent shekels. Instead, the conversations that we initiated with passersby as well as the final days that we spent with our host families and others gave us far more knowledge about daily life in Israel than any of the historic sites that we visited.

Take for example the story of Uri Shekalim, who currently runs a clothing store in the New City of Jerusalem. On one of our first night in the city, Dr. Gur took me to and a group of my peers to Ben Yehuda Street, the site of Uri's shop, which his family has owned for over fifty-four years. It was here that I heard of the region's trying history during the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising lasting from 2000-2006. During this violent period, Palestinian suicide bombers had attacked the store six times, yielding little to moderate damage. However, the seventh attack would have lasting effects on Shekalim and his family.

The seventh attack occurred at a time when suicide bombers had adopted the tactic of working in pairs. One would ignite him or herself in a store or a crowded section of the street, while a second would wait for emergency crews to arrive before detonating another bomb. On the night of the seventh attack, two terrorists had ignited bombs close to Shekalim's store. At the time, the only people in the store were Uri's father and brother and an American patron. When the first bomb exploded, Uri's father beckoned for his son and his customer to join him in a safe room located in the back of the store behind its three dressing rooms. While his son willingly obeyed, his patron panicked and ran toward the door. Uri's father, knowing far too well the methods of the suicide bombers, successfully wrestled the woman back to the safety of the room. There the three remained, nervously awaiting an end to the madness outside.

Unfortunately, no one had anticipated the third bomber, a man who had concealed himself in the crowded city street by dressing as a woman and grabbing the hand of a three year old Jewish girl who had been separated from her family in the confusion of the attacks. Luckily, the girl was able to break free from the man's grasp before he detonated himself in doorway of the Shekalim's store. The force of the blast had decimated the store's interior, burning all of the clothing on which the family made their livelihood. Surprisingly, however, Uri's family and the American woman's lives were saved by the protection of the middle dressing room wall, which bowed outward toward the storefront rather than blasting inward and killing those in the concealed room.

Uri told me and those who had gathered to listen to his story that he doesn't know if the way in which the wall collapsed was a miracle or simply an act of physics. However, no matter what happened, the damaged wall, which he and his family resolved to leave as the only part of the store unrepaired from the blast, serves to remind him that no matter how many bad days he might have, there is nothing that could come close to horror of that day.

I relate this story not because I wish to add to the stereotypes of the region as dangerous or unstable. Rather, I tell this story because I feel that it embodies the spirit of the nation. A strange dichotomy exists among the country's inhabitants. On one hand, the metal blinds and safe rooms that some families have in their homes symbolize the feelings of caution and reservation that many Israelis understandably experience. Yet, on the other hand, the people that I encountered in Israel reflected a zest for life and an openness that I found truly beautiful. While watching people laugh, sing, and dance in the streets of Jerusalem, I recall feeling a strong desire to return home a less reserved and inhibited young man. I felt the desire to speak with greater candor to my loved ones and friends, to teach my students with greater compassion and sincerity. Uri's story is at once a tale of tragedy and of the willingness to persevere and live life to the fullest. His story helps to me to understand why even after facing such destruction, people continue to frequent the swarming streets of Ben Yehuda street, which today pulsates with an nightlife that I can assure you cannot be found anywhere in Pittsburgh.

More than anything else, my trip reinforced my belief in the power of the story. Whether carved into the city walls or written within those who live within its borders, Israel is brimming with stories waiting to be told. It is our jobs as educators not only to present these stories to our students, but to explore, consider, and debate the questions that these stories pose. As with any great work of literature, the messages these stories proclaim are problematic, and it is only through embracing their challenges and peeling away their layers of complexity that we can begin to understand those messages and lessons embodied within.

Matt Bachner / Teacher / Winchester Thurston
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

You can talk about culture, experience, architecture and art in a classroom but until you walk through the ruins of ancient synagogues and dig up thousand year old artifacts, you will not have a true respect for what life was like in the region...I believe that teaching by example is crucial to reaching students. My experience with Classrooms without Borders was full of excitement, information, and understanding.

Russell Bellamy / Teacher / Beacon College
2016 Israel Archeology Study Seminar: Discovering The Past Civilization

I could never have fully grasped the perseverance of the Jewish people, the miracle of their existence, and the joy resulting in their survival and independence, even despite constant persecution, had I not experienced firsthand what the land of Israel looked like, what the people sound like as they tell their stories, and all of what the senses could take in through visiting the land itself. Listening to the candid story of a child of Holocaust survivors while at Yad Vashem was both heart-wrenching and liberating at the same time, and I will forever be changed because of it. My feelings of love and respect for the Jewish children that I teach will now be i nfused with a deeper love and respect for Israel, which connects all of us.

Rachel Reid / Teacher / TELC at Yeshiva
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

Being in the classroom has limitations, even the beloved internet can not bring the facts to life like traveling does. The smells, the sounds, feeling the wind and sun in such places never leaves. No classroom can make that happen. My best hope is to create the spark, the inquiry for my students to seek more on their own and to make the difference in their generations....CWB provides the inspiration to conintue the efforts, that what teachers do matters, and each individual is worth the extra effort.

Pamala Learn / Teacher / Dutch Ridge Elementary
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The Classrooms Without Borders Early Childhood Educators Israel Seminar gave breadth and dimension to my understanding of what Israel is. It answered my questions as well as sparked questions I would have never thought to ask; because I did not know what I was truly curious about. More specifically the trip provided an opportunity to get an insider's look into the Israeli classroom setting. I was able to see and feel how teaching young children to respect and appreciate the land and nature around them is valued and embraced in Israel. I would have never understood the full multitude of what this means without physically experiencing it with my own eyes.

Kelly Gumina / Teacher / JCC Squirrel Hill Educator
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

The Classrooms Without Borders trip confirmed my experience regarding the power of on site learning. During the experiential learning trip, Stephen Hart's quote kept coming to my mind: "Formal education is a walk through the zoo, informal education is a walk through the savannah." The Poland Personally seminar provided a powerful and memorable experiential learning walk through a rich and complex ecosystem that deserves to be "lived" by as many students and educators as possible.

Roberta Brandau / Teacher / Holy Family Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The people, the culture, the feeling you get from being in Israel, all of it teaches so much more about the history than any facts could. I connected to Israel, to the people, and to the Jewish identity, through this experience and the other participants, in so many ways that I never imagined were possible. It opened my heart, spirit, and mind and allowed me to understand so much more about Israel than I ever could have if I hadn't been on this seminar, and I am beyond thankful for this experience.

Jessica Pindzola / Teacher / Community Day School
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

A conversation with Tova Perlmutter deepened my connection with Israel. After learning that her grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz, that she was born in a DPW camp, she was married right after the Six Day War and gave birth during the Yom Kippur War, I said to her, "You are like a map of the history of the Jewish people." She responded, "But each of us is a map of the history of the Jewish people." 

Iris Harlan / Teacher / Temple Emanuel ECDC
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

From dawn until dusk, day after day, I was taken on a journey that was educational, spiritual, and allowed me to see the span of human capabilities from horrific to heroic.

Steve Hopkins / Teacher / Old Trail School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I cannot express how important it is for teachers to have the chance to travel to Israel. If we are trying to provide the best quality early childhood to our children, then that includes instilling in our teachers the richness of the Jewish history and heritage. And Israel is such an essential part of this picture.

Gail Schmitt / Teacher / Adat Shalom Preschool
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

I will be a stronger teacher not only because of the history and facts I learned, but because I experienced it with a survivor. I was standing feet away from Howard when we learned of Eli Wiesel's death, and I think that moment really made the whole experience sink in more. We truly are the last generations to hear these stories first hand. I wholeheartedly believe that teachers and students should go on CWB seminars because reading a book or seeing a movie is not the same as experiencing and hearing first-hand.

Chelsea Platt / Teacher / Flant Hill School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The special value of the Poland Personally seminar is its immediacy for an educator. Standing in the market square of Starachoweice and listening to Howard's rich description of what happened on that day the Nazis uprooted the lives of his family and community, I understood emotionally and intellectually the loss of human freedom and life. I felt the urgency of communicating this understanding to students...Poland Personally will challenge educators to go beyond the facts about the Holocaust, to ask questions, and to encourage their students to understand and preserve the lessons of the Holocaust.

Judi Olsavsky / Teacher / The Linsly School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The CWB seminar profoundly inspired me as an artist and an educator. It proved that the creative process can promote positive social change inside and outside of the walls of a classroom or gallery.

Sarah Ceurvorst / Teacher / The Ellis School
Inside Israel: Arts & Culture Seminar

What I saw, heard, felt and learned in Poland was overwhelming to say the least. I have listened to the stories of Holocaust survivors in the past, but traveling with Howard Chandler, (an Auschwitz survivor) was an unforgettable experience... I experienced moments on this trip that I will never forget and I am eager to share these experiences with my students in the upcoming years. Through the vast resources made available to me by CWB, the professional relationships that I have developed with other educators, my photographs and personal experiences, my students will undoubtedly gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust.

Jeffrey Eason / Teacher
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

One can always learn the dates, facts, and progression of events from reading, however, it is impossible to describe the heat, the topography, the distances, the smells and sounds if one has not actually experienced them personally.

Russell Morrison / Teacher
2016 Israel Archeology Study Seminar: Discovering The Past Civilization

It's easier to bring Israel into the classroom more effectively after getting a refresher on the land, it's beauty, and culture. It was a reminder that this is our home and to continue educating our children so they have a sense of ownership as they get older.

Julie Lewinter / Teacher / Beth Shalom Early Learning Center
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

In general I came back with a true love of Israel (can't wait to go back) and a sense of how overwhelmingly important it is to preserve as much of the history and archaeology that exists. With the current disregard ranging to hatred of cultures other than one's own that permeates not only the Middle East but much of the world, the desperate need to preserve and protect these cultures has never been more immediate. The fact that much of what we saw in Israel might never have been discovered, appreciated or preserved under different circumstances is incomprehensible to one who values all human life and the journey humans have been on.

Lynn Horton / Teacher / Winchester Thurston
2016 Israel Archeology Study Seminar: Discovering The Past Civilization

Learning about Judaism in a classroom setting is fine up to a point. We can read, look at pictures, listen to
dynamic speakers and believe we have learned a lot. When you supplement this education with a trip to Israel which provides educational tours, history, politics and social issues, your knowledge is solidified.

Sharon Reinherz / Teacher / The Community Day School
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

I heard some people on the trip say that they felt like they were "home" in Israel. I better understand this after having been there. Jews in the United States live in a place where they are the minority, the calendar and some cultural practices follow Christian norms. In Israel, even the secular preschools recognize and celebrate the Jewish holidays. Things that happen around them reflect a Jewish way of life/thinking. For example, in Jerusalem, many things were not open on Shabbat, all the hotel rooms had mezuzahs on the doors, washing stations were readily available at the hotels, etc. After experiencing different aspects of Israeli culture, I better appreciate some of the differences of being Jewish in America.

Nina Greenberg / Teacher / Rodef Shalom Berkman Family Center Preschool
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

The main theme I felt on our trip was that of CONNECTION -- to the past, to each other, to the land, to tradition. I hope to incorporate the sights, smells, and sounds as well as the communal experience in my classroom. I will continue to add to my classroom items that connect to the land of Israel and support the independent exploration and recognition of the image of the child as competent.

Pamela Stasolla / Teacher / Andat Shalom Preschool
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

When I went on this trip, I had been teaching about the Holocaust for 20 years. I had already visited Dachau and Mauthausen, so I assumed that this would be a seminar that would give me a few more facts to add to my lesson and some photos to put into my presentations. I had no idea how wrong I was – so many parts of the trip had a profound impact on me. 

Lisa Welch / Teacher / Linsly School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

If you want to teach about a place, if you want to help children feel connected to a place, the teacher needs to know that place and not just from a book or pictures. After visiting Israel, teachers will be able to bring back all of the sights, sounds, tastes, earth, and emotions that Israel has to offer. After singing Hatikvah with tears in my eyes in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, standing next to the principal of my Religious School, I believe I made a new Israel-teaching commitment. I may never retire.

Judy Sheffler / Teacher / Rodef Shalom
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

I never considered how much MORE of an experience this would be – educationally, spiritually, personally...I did not realize that I would form incredible friendships and bonds with people from different cities, backgrounds, cultures, faiths, etc. Being able to participate in the memorials was something of a healing process, but it was also wonderful to be included in certain Jewish traditions. Everything came full circle. 

Betsy Francis / Teacher / Wheeling Charleston Central Catholic High School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The faces of the students will remind me of my trip. Although we couldn't photograph them, I will remember the children in the enrichment center cutting up real lemon and lime for their lemonade stand and pouring it into glasses with confidence. I will benefit from this collaboration because I'm hoping this memory will remind me to have the confidence in the children in my classes to let them explore and discover and manage delicate materials.

Julie Silverman / Teacher / Temple Emanuel
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

I know that some teachers were worried about being too emotional when teaching the subject now; however, I think this is a good thing. It is good for the students to see their teachers upset about what happened because it shows them that what happened can't be ignored. This human experience is what needs to be taken into classrooms; it needs to affect the younger generations because they are the future.

Betsy Francis / Teacher / Wheeling Charleston Central Catholic High School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Not just with the Holocaust, but in terms of 20th and 21st century history and understanding the issues, being on site makes it so much more real. Standing on Mount Bental and looking over at Syria and Jordan, experiencing the barrier and hearing stories from both Palestinians and Israelis, or visiting the Western Wall and Temple Mount all bring the situation to life...The breadth of the experiences were remarkable and covered so much. 

Andrea Christian-Michael / Teacher / The Ellis School
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

One thing I learned hands-on was how the people of Israel are so passionate about their land! They really love and cherish it. The warmth and caring they all portrayed to us while helping us understand how and why they reach the way they do could only have been seen on-site. I also enjoyed seeing the kids' independence and how it enriched their learning process.

Rachel Pekkar / Teacher / The Early Learning Center at Yeshiva
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

The living witnesses are extremely important to these trips and the learning experiences. I believe without the witnesses, something in the program would be lost. I'm so blessed to have met Howard Chandler!

Carrie McKenzie / Teacher
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

This trip changed my life. I experienced Israel fully, with all of my senses. I think I was falling into a comfortable routine with my work, but this trip revived my appreciation for what I do. I truly feel inspired to put more of myself into my teaching, especially when it comes to fostering a love for a place that once seemed so far away.

Rebecca Abramowitz / Teacher
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

Collaboration with teachers and students was very valuable. I was able to discuss and bring to life ideas that I had about teaching the Holocaust and get immediate feedback. When I was walking through a particular exhibit or standing alone taking in the whole scene, I knew another teacher or student was nearby.

Anne Holly Neely / Teacher / Taylor Allerdice High School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The most important thing to take with me is the Israeli spirit -- the love for children, the love of the land, the love of Judaism, the pull to always move forward (as individuals and a nation). When you visit Israel you take it home in your heart, unlike reading a book or looking at photos -- that satisfies only the brain.

Michelle Dreyfuss / Teacher
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

I supervise two staffs: 13 early childhood teachers and 16 supplemental religious school teachers. I cannot express how important it is for teachers to have the chance to travel to Israel. If we are trying to provide the best quality early childhood to our children, then that includes instilling in our teachers the richness of the Jewish history and heritage. And Israel is such an essential part of this picture. I, for one, would most likely not have been able to go to Israel either time without the wonderful support of funders whose contributions help to make this type of life-changing experience a reality for so many! Classrooms Without Borders, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Gail Schmitt / Teacher / Director at Adat Shalom Preschool
2016 Israel Seminar for Early Childhood Educators

It is by far the most worthwhile teacher seminar I have ever attended. My worldview has been broadened immensely.

Shirley Lycan / Teacher / Charleston Catholic High School
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

Visiting this place and thereby telling a story from my past and connecting it to the history of the world is very intriguing and engaging. We want our students to be engaged in our lessons and this is a guaranteed way to do that.

Anne Holly Neely / Teacher / Taylor Allerdice High School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Just the opportunity to be in a totally unique environment that touches on the curriculum I teach will allow me to speak about related topics more authentically. Teaching history is a form of storytelling, and the best stories are often told from experience.

Laura Miller / Teacher / Columbus Academy
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

In Auschwitz, I entered the gas chamber with a group of Jewish students (many wore Israeli flags as capes) and they began to sing Hatikva. I began to cry, but sang triumphantly with them as we celebrated the continuation of the Jewish people.

Amy Katz / Teacher / Shady Side Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

There is an ineffable quality to being in a space that strikes nerves; this program takes those difficult experiences and funnels them toward enthusiastic and effective teaching. 

Adam Oberlin / Teacher / Linsly School
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Nothing prepares you for this experience. Humans are not born with the ability to 'go there' in their minds, or to comprehend the scale of this atrocity. We learn how to deal with this tragedy by experiencing it together and talking about it, and encouraging others to experience it for themselves.

Robinson Howard / Teacher / Westmorland Old Main
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The Holocaust is a tragedy, a nightmare too big and too horrible to imagine happening, and 70 years later, many people simply don't want to bring it into their minds, let alone their hearts.

Sherri Hallgren / Teacher / Shady Side Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I've been teaching the Holocaust for 20 plus years and it will be different next year when I can use my new knowledge to share with my students and peers. 

Mark Render / Teacher / Bethel Park High School
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

Studying the Holocaust isn't just about learning about the terrors brought to the Jews by the Germans. Learning and seeing the passion and pride behind the beliefs in Judaism inspired me to be closer to my own religion. The Jewish members of this trip enlightened me to a new sense of pride in who you are.

Amaris Gonzalez / Teacher / Sewickley Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

My expectations were that it would be a rigorous, academic, activity-filled session, and I was not disappointed!...It was a privilege to be with educators with such outstanding qualities. Some knew more about Israel than others; some had interesting classroom applications to offer; some connected more on an emotional level; some connected on an intellectual level. Having younger students and experienced teachers and college students made it particularly interesting. 

Karen Kennedy / Teacher / Pittsburgh CAPA
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

Meeting with the director of Yad Vashem has changed the way I intend to teach Holocaust literature.

Shirley Lycan / Teacher / Charleston Catholic High School
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

The seminar went above and beyond my expectations, leaving me not only with a wealth of knowledge but it opened up a plethora of questions about humanity, Judaism and Jewish culture, racism and my identity as an African American woman.

Venneasha Davis / Teacher / Woodland Hills Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Whenever any of our students has had the chance to go to another country, the effects have been life-changing. A well-run, comprehensive program like CWB would definitely have a positive impact on young lives. And it has definitely had an impact on my not-so- young life as well.

Karen Kennedy / Teacher / Pittsburgh CAPA
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

I was really affected by the Garden of Exile and the "stepping on faces" Holocaust exhibits at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The aura of these places made me feel an immediate connection to the Jewish experience of the past.

Jennifer Klausner / Teacher / Scarsdale, NY
Germany Close Up

The opportunity to meet and interact with local people was extremely important to my overall experience. Not only did I get perspective from 'non-experts,' but it made the trip more diverse, representative, and fun. 

Rhett Jenkins / Teacher / Shady Side Academy
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

The Classrooms Without Borders trip showed me the immense power of human choice, either for great good or great evil. A trip like this helps the participant to commit him or herself to making choices conscientiously, always wanting to spread goodness wherever possible. I would recommend to anyone --particularly educators-- to travel with Classrooms Without Borders for the experience of a life time.

Lisa Coyne / Teacher
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

This trip reinforces the fragility of life and how quickly it can all be taken away. The idea of 1+1+1+1 eventually equaling 6 million Jews and 11 million people all dying because most people weren't brave enough to stand up and speak up for fear of what would happen to them.

Jacob Galik / Teacher / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The immersion into this type of experience for two weeks provides the participants with a deeper understanding and insight into the history, cultures and peoples of the Middle East. Thanks to the CWB for financially supporting the cost of the seminar which permits the participants to engage in this learning experience at an affordable cost. 

Garette Edmonds / Teacher
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

The trip is an amazing way for anyone to learn about Jewish history + tradition in Germany and is also a great way to reflect on how to improve and repair the world.

Dena Robinson / Teacher / Baltimore
Germany Close Up

There is no possible way that one can understand the human tragedy that was the Holocaust without traveling to Poland and visiting the several camps. The intense activity and expert guidance together with reflection opportunities melded history and morality. I have gained such perspective that will allow me to become a deeper thinker and better teacher. Poland Personally is a unique opportunity to grow as a human being and to understand the struggle and triumph of the human spirit. 

Perry Rogers / Teacher / Columbus School for Girls
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

As a Jew, it was difficult to reconcile my desire to learn new things and my apprehension to visit Germany. I am going back to America with a new perspective on German life. I am pleasantly surprised to find so many warm, friendly people who are genuinely interested in the active preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and the lessons learned from it.

Nina Silverstein / Teacher / Baltimore
Germany Close Up

In so many ways, the Holocaust is an event—a tragedy, a nightmare—that suffers from its own scope. It's too big and too horrible to imagine happening, and 70 years later, many people simply don't want to bring it into their minds, let alone their hearts. But I think the entire world is still coming to terms with what people did to other people there in Poland and elsewhere, and it's necessary that we encounter and learn from all of it. As William Faulkner famously said, "The past is never dead. It isn't even past." Traveling with teachers and students through Classrooms Without Borders allowed me to experience and learn history, culture, politics, even the symbolic ways we've found to memorialize the events of the Holocaust, in a way that no amount of reading or study could have. We traveled through time as well as space to be in the Warsaw ghetto, Auschwitz, the old city of Krakow, and the past came alive. It was mind-expanding and life-altering, an experience I would wish everyone to have.

Sherri Halgreen / Teacher / Shady Side Academy
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The first step to progress is forgeveness. Reconciliation starts with personal connection.

Amanda Dryer / Teacher / Melville, NY
Germany Close Up

By having your feet in the footsteps of history is a game changer. To see what history really was, feel the same wind on your face as the historical figures felt, smell the smells, witness the locations as they really were...that is paradigm shifting. Someone once said that if you don't study history, you are bound to repeat it. You can not experience history and have it really be understood by reading about it in a static sterile environment. To understand history...you must live history.

Vincent Schmidt / Teacher / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I would definitely recommend this program to other teachers or students. Not only does this experience "Open Minds and Open Hearts," it has opened my eyes to a complex world. 

Joanne Copeland / Teacher / Valley School of Ligonier
Inside Israel: A Study Seminar to Israel

The Poland Personally Study Seminar is a life-changing experience. Educationally, the trip was an amazing learning experience--not just through the history which was taught by incredible individuals but through the personal experience of each person on this trip. We daily find things to complain about, but I think I will always think before I complain about anything. My life is an easy life compared to the experiences of the Jewish people and others involved in the Holocaust. As a school counselor, I will try to emulate the strength and courage of those persecuted throughout the Holocaust and the hope of those who survived it.

Marilyn Wehrheim / Teacher / Wheeling, WV
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland