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Boston education program links Famine and Holocaust

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Michael P. Quinlin

BOSTON — A new educational program for school children that teaches the lessons of the Irish Famine and Jewish Holocaust was announced this week by Irish and Jewish leaders in Boston. The unique partnership will bring school groups to visit the Boston Irish Famine Memorial and the New England Holocaust Memorial. Both memorials are in downtown Boston a few blocks apart.

The Famine Memorial chairman, Thomas J. Flatley, and his wife, Charlotte, are funding the $100,000 education program.

The program was announced Sunday at a dinner sponsored by the Holocaust Memorial committee held at the John F. Kennedy Library. The event honored Flatley for his role in building the Famine Memorial, and Steven Grossman, who chaired the Holocaust Memorial project unveiled in 1995. Irish fiddler Frankie Gavin of DaDannan and Jewish Klezmer clarinetist Andy Statman performed with the Hankus Netsky Irish/Klezmer Ensemble.

The program will include an outreach effort to teachers throughout New England who typically make field trips to Boston during the school year. Organizers will create a joint study guide that recounts the universal themes of both episodes, concentrating on the lessons of bigotry and intolerance and the need to guard against similar injustices in the future, according to Stephen Dickerman, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial.

The program will train volunteers to tell the Irish and Jewish stories at each memorial, and will offer a video to teachers as a way preparing students for the visit.

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Organizers agree that teaching future generations about the past is the best way to avoid making the same mistakes throughout history.

"I have to believe that if the world was fully aware of those tragedies, much could have been averted," Flatley said. "It is so important to our next generation that they learn and not have to relive the past."

"Experiencing history through these memorials teaches us what citizenship and tolerance are all about," said Grossman. "These memorials are a vehicle to educate our children and the next generation about citizenship, tolerance, and engagement as participants in a free and democratic society."

The Boston Irish Famine Memorial, located at Washington and School Street, was unveiled in June 1998, about two blocks from the Holocaust Memorial, which is located on Union Street near Boston City Hall and Faneuil Hall. Both are alongside the city’s Freedom Trail, and are visited by over two million tourists each year.

Flatley and his committee have also formed an Irish Famine Institute to help people in African and Asian countries still suffering from famines today. Working with groups like Concern, AmeriCares, and the International Famine Centre in Cork, the Institute has funded more than $300,000 for food and medical supplies and for training relief workers in countries like Congo and Rwanda.

For more information on these projects, contact bostonirish@mediaone.net.

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