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Holocaust education to be provided in Onondaga Co. schools

DEWITT, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s been a heavy seven months since the October 7 attacks on Israel, and since then, antisemitic behavior has really grown, including in Central New York. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is now working with local leaders and county schools to put an end to antisemitism.

Onondaga County has partnered with 3GNY, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 by grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, like Dave Reckess, executive director of 3GNY. Reckess is the grandson of Holocaust survivors from Poland and Russia.

“My grandmother was 16 when the war broke out. Over the next six years of her life, she endured horrific conditions. She survived near starvation Lublin Ghetto. She managed to daring escape from the Majdanek Concentration Camp and she was hidden for 3 1/2 years in a tiny apartment by a Polish Catholic family, who’s courageous actions allowed my grandmother to survive,” said Reckess.

Many grandchildren, like Reckess, are third generation descendants of Holocaust survivors, and are part of 3GNY. The organization works with the grandchildren, training them to compelling share their family history and their family stories of surviving the Holocaust. Once trained, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors will visit schools and other community settings to share their testimony with students and the public.

“By relaying the story of what happened to their grandparents, how they survived, how they were assisted by others and the resilience they were able to show and then how they built a life after the war is an incredible, personal moment. And our speakers also share about what it was like for them as grandchildren of survivors growing up knowing this part of our history, this part of our identity and what it means to be a Jewish-American with the history of the Holocaust in our family and how that informs how we see the world today. How antisemitism feels even more poignant and painful for us in some cases because we know all to well what can happen if antisemitism is not stopped,” said Reckess.

This year alone, 3GNY has partnered with 15 schools in Onondaga County. Syracuse City School District began its partnership with the organization four years ago, with speakers visiting social studies classrooms to share their personal stories. Since partnering, the district says it has seen a great impact on its students.

“We’ve actually seen a great difference in terms of it brings social studies education alive. When we hear personal accounts and have visitors to the classroom, we call that place-based social studies and it’s really a powerful tool to engage students and hook them and have them try to become critical thinkers and ask quality questions about a particular topic that they are studying,” said Nick Stamoulacatos, director of social studies education for the Syracuse City School District.

3GNY also partnered with another 40 schools across Central New York this year. Through this new funding, the county is hoping to reach every district in hopes of bringing communities together to put an end to antisemitism.

“Our speakers share their family stories of what we know the worst examples of antisemitism have led to, and in many cases, our speakers are then asked or share a little bit about their own personal experiences of these past several months since October 7” said Reckess.

Reckess says the speakers presentations at schools are tremendous and impactful on students, but it’s still not enough.

“Our goal is that students will carry our grandparents in their hearts and in their minds and when they are going through their day, their week, their year, their life, that they will remember the story they heard,” said Reckess.

Inspiring students to think and act with courage and compassion.

The program is typically offered to students in middle school and high school.

Click here to learn more about 3GNY and its mission.

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