The most effective way to prevent intolerance in society is to foster tolerance. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress offers the Jewish communities of Eurasia the Tolerance – Lessons of the Holocaust project, the implementation of which is important not only in those states where interethnic tension exists, but also in those desiring to preserve their peace and neighborliness.
The aim of this program is to raise responsible citizens who will keep an open mind on religions, traditions, cultures of other peoples, and are going to be capable of valuing freedom, respecting human dignity and individuality, as well as forestalling conflicts or solving them nonviolently.
The Tolerance – Lessons of the Holocaust educational program consists of a system of seminars for teachers and lecturers of non-Jewish secondary schools and employees of various other educational institutions in CIS states. The project is based on a regular study of the history of genocide and ethno-national catastrophes, including one of the most terrible ones - the Holocaust, the Catastrophe of European Jews.
The concept of the Tolerance – lessons of the Holocaust program differs from other educational programs dealing with the Holocaust. It cultivates tolerance and empathy through the negative example of the Holocaust as a supreme form of intolerance. Every nationality has its own tragedy, and it is precisely through another people's tragedy that we become acquainted with them, learn to empathize with them and understand them.
The most vulnerable become victims of intolerance the most often – thus, the victims are usually children. Children and teenagers are often purveyors of negative stereotypes, prejudices, and objectionable language that is derogatory towards people of other cultures or religions. Often representatives of other nationalities are ostracized, and there are youth groups that promote Fascist slogans. Thus, one of the main tasks of the projects is to form tteenagers' national identity, i.e a respect for themselves and others as representatives of certain peoples.
As the experience of European countries shows, the child collectives covered by the Tolerance – lessons of the Holocaust program show a noticeable reduction in tension towards teenagers of different nationalities. Stereotypes recede, and an interest towards other peoples and their representatives, their culture and history, appears in their stead. Self-respect is formed and strengthened, and self-esteem rises. In many cases, there is an active, effectual attitude towards nearby events, an active rejection of injustice, a readiness to defend the weak and offended, a willingness to be happy for the success of the others.
The Tolerance - Lessons of the Holocaust program is aimed to foster positive national identity among teenagers, to form the ability to protect human rights and to protest against all forms of discrimination, and thus contributes to forming foundations of national and religious tolerance, responsibility, and compassion.
EAJC has been conducting the Tolerance - Lessons of the Holocaust program since 2002. This project is a logical continuation of the Lessons of the Holocaust program, which has been implemented by the Center of Jewish Education and VAAD Ukraine in secondary schools since 1997. From 2004, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress EAJC has been implementing the program with the financial support of the Claims Conference.
EAJC has held seminars in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan within the framework of the program. In some countries (Moldova and Georgia, among others) treaties of cooperation were signed with the local Ministries of Education. The aim of the project is to train secondary school teachers, to provide them with professional materials for their future activities in schools, to create proper conditions for further development of methodological materials on the Holocaust, as well as to include this topic in history textbooks and in educational plans of CIS secondary and high schools. Consultation and coordination work is carried out between workshops.
Teachers that participated in the seminars continue and extend their work in their regions by working both within and outside the school curriculum. Annual contests of Pupils' Research and Art Works History and Lessons of the Holocaust have been held since 2000 in different CIS countries for student from grade 8 to 11. The works include different aspects of Holocaust history and international tolerance. The winners of Pupils' Research and Art Works contest take part in international youth conferences, such as the International Holocaust Studies School that annually takes place in Brest (Belarus) and is traditionally supported by the EAJC.
These activities inspire future creative work of teachers with their pupils on the Holocaust: round tables, conferences, field trips, finding and interviewing witnesses, searches for places of burial and execution, installation of memorials and monuments, and so forth.
Around 1500 teachers from the above-mentioned countries have been involved in 19 seminars since 1997. Over 500 children have participated in 10 annual workshops of Pupils' Research and Art Works since 2000. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress plans to increase project activities in various regions of Eurasia.