The New Rider initiative aims to raise awareness of historical injustices

The Julius and Dorothy Koppelman Holocaust/Genocide Resource Center at Rider University and the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) have partnered in an initiative to increase awareness and understanding of genocides, including the Holocaust, as well as other historical injustices.

The program came about through the efforts of Dr. Pamela Pruitt, executive director of Rider’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), which oversees the Koppelman Center; Dr. Jason Barr, Dean of CEHS; and Dr. Mark Pearcy, who teaches Rider’s Teaching High School Social Studies course (SED 405).

“I wanted to do a project that would benefit K-12 teachers in terms of Holocaust and genocide pedagogy,” Pruitt said. “We ended up having the idea of ​​having a semester-long program where CEHS students would create study guides to put on the CDI website so K-12 teachers would have free access to this valuable information.”

Students who took Pearcy’s course during the fall semester were asked to design a social studies media project on a topic that fell within the mandate of the Koppelman Center. These teacher guides could then serve as a resource for teachers and students who wish to learn more about issues such as race, historical discrimination, genocide or reparations.

“I hoped to provide students with a practical, in-depth understanding of a historical subject and how it can be used effectively in teaching social studies,” says Pearcy. “I also thought it would be a great way for them to show future employers how they can build longer projects that incorporate different types of technology and media for student use.”

After all the projects were completed, Pearcy selected the top three submissions. A jury comprised of Brock Mislan, the Ewing Township Public Schools Social Studies Supervisor; Hopewell Valley Regional School District Social Studies Supervisor Darren Lewan; and Ken Boardman, assistant professor at Rider, then ranked them.

The program ended with an awards ceremony to recognize the students who submitted the top three projects.

Victoria Burd ’22 was named the inaugural Koppelman Fellow for her winning submission, “Historical Racism and Discrimination: Newark Riots of 1967,” which focuses not only on the riots, but also on their lasting impact on the city. She received a $750 scholarship sponsored by CDI.

“It’s one of my biggest accomplishments of my time at Rider,” Burd says. “I feel like the time, effort, and sometimes tears I put into researching this article, and the re-education I underwent during the research process, brought out exactly what I had hoped.”

Abigail Fisch ’22 took second place and received a $500 scholarship for her project, “Jewish Culture: The Story of Judith and the Role of Women in the Jewish Text,” which asks the question of why stories of the Jewish matriarchs are not as widely known. like those of their male counterparts.

Anthony Higueruela ’22 was the third winner and recipient of a $250 scholarship for his project, “The Holocaust and Nazi Propaganda,” which examines how Hitler and the Nazis managed to effectively demonize the Jewish people, and analyzes the dangers that can result from bigotry, stereotyping and othering of different groups of people.

Burd, who graduated in May and will begin her career as a social studies teacher at Ewing High School in the fall, says working on the project prepared her to be a better teacher.

“It taught me to compile a variety of sources for students to practice synthesizing, developing theses and doing research,” she says. “It taught me to think from various perspectives, such as how a student might use a source, what important content and context a source might contain, and how a student might interpret those elements.

“It also caused a reflection on all the missing parts of the story in education. I doubt many students know about the Newark race riots, despite their proximity to where they happened and the effects that are still playing out in Newark. It is our job as educators to shed light on these neglected and often overlooked stories.

Pruitt says CDI plans to continue the Koppelman Scholar program next year and hopes to expand involvement within the Rider community and promote it more widely to K-12 teachers.

Earnest L. Veasey