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Margot Stern Strom, who founded pioneering Holocaust education program Facing History, dies at 81



(JTA) — Margot Stern Strom, who drew on the pain of her Jewish childhood in the Jim Crow South to create one of the most widely used Holocaust education programs in American schools, died March 28 at her home in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was 81.

The Boston Globe reported the cause as pancreatic cancer.

Strom was a schoolteacher in 1976 when she co-founded Facing History & Ourselves, which drew on draft lessons piloted in her classroom. For three years in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Education Department denied funding for the Holocaust curriculum, in part because of consultants opposed to the curricula and because of right-wing groups, such as Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, that objected to the program.

However, due to persistent congressional support for the grants, the program finally broke through in 1989 and began to receive federal funds. During the nearly 40 years Strom spent as head of the nonprofit until her retirement in 2014, its curriculum expanded into classrooms in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

In recent years, in addition to training thousands of teachers, Facing History brought aging survivors of the Holocaust and other important historic events into hundreds of classrooms to share their stories.

“Margot Strom is a visionary,” former Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said when Strom received the 2015 Massachusetts Governor’s Award in the Humanities. “She had a unique idea and she has translated that idea into an organization that has an impact around the world.”

Margot Stern was born Nov. 10, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois to Fan and Lloyd Stern. After the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, she was exposed to the racism facing Black people and the intolerance that extended to her small Jewish community. “One Jewish cheerleader at a time was the custom on our high school squad,” she recalled, according to a reminiscence by Facing History. “We had Jewish high school sororities and one Jew a year was chosen as an honorary member of a Christian sorority. We all lived by these rules.”

In 1964, Strom earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After graduating she became a teacher, starting out in Skokie, Illinois and eventually moving with her husband Terry Strom and their young family to the Boston suburbs, where she taught eighth grade language arts and social studies.

In the spring of 1975, according to Facing History, she and fellow teacher Bill Parsons attended a workshop on the Holocaust and realized how little they taught and how little their students knew about the genocide of Jews during World War II. (Parsons, who would later serve as chief of staff at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, died in 2016.)

They went on to secure interest and funding from local philanthropists and educators to expand her lesson plans into a curriculum used in classrooms around the country.

“As an educator, Margot believed in her students — whether they were in middle school, high school, or if they were teachers themselves — and their capacity to think deeply about history, about the world we live in, and about how our choices shape society,” Facing History said in a statement. “She imbued in them the ability to act as moral philosophers, and apply the lessons they learned in class to the world around them.”

Roger Brooks succeeded Strom as Facing History’s president and CEO on Dec. 1, 2014. “She deeply understood the need for upstander education and used her charismatic leadership skills to impart this import to teachers and students around the world,” he said in a statement, using a word popularized by Facing History to refer to the opposite of “bystander.”

In comments that presaged the current debate over teaching about racism and gender in public schools around the country, Strom once commented on the schoolroom atmosphere she faced when first promoting the Holocaust studies curriculum.

“There was a powerful silence about race and racism and no mention of antisemitism or the Holocaust,” she wrote in a personal history of the organization. “‘Bad history’ was best forgotten. The Civil War was the War Between the States and we were taught how the South won the major battles. In my Tennessee history class I did not learn who lost the Civil War.”

Strom is survived by her son, Adam, the executive director and cofounder of the Boston nonprofit Re-Imagining Migration; daughter, Rachel Fan Stern Strom of Brooklyn; and four grandchildren. Her survivors also include her brother Gerald Stern, who was an attorney with the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department under then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and her sister, Paula Stern of Washington, D.C., who formerly chaired the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Her husband, Terry Strom, a renowned researcher in organ transplant immunology, died in 2018.

The post Margot Stern Strom, who founded pioneering Holocaust education program Facing History, dies at 81 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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