Towson University Holocaust Education Center Opens its Doors

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Hana Bor stands at the entrance to the Sandra R. Berman Center or Humanity, Tolerance and Holocaust Education (Alexander Wright)

Towson University is working to make Holocaust education more accessible to college students and Maryland residents with its new Sandra R. Berman Center for Humanity, Tolerance and Holocaust Education, which opened on March 28.

The center’s opening is the culmination of efforts dating to the early 1990s when a committee formed to research the need for a Maryland-based Holocaust education center.

Named for donors Sandra and Malcolm Berman, whose donations made the center possible, the center provides resources for students who want to learn more about the Holocaust, as well as teachers who want to better educate their students on the subject.

Towson was selected as the center’s location due to its proximity to Washington, D.C. and its United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which provides resources to Holocaust educators nationwide. It’s also an accessible location for many Marylanders.

“The main goal of the center is to educate and commemorate, to remember the Holocaust and make connections to current times,” said Hana Bor, the Berman Center’s inaugural director and a professor in Towson’s Department of Family Studies & Community Development. “We hope that the work of the center will help people understand the past so they can learn about the present, and hopefully be prepared for the future.”

Bor, 65, is from Israel and lives in Columbia. She and her husband, fellow Towson professor Eyal Bor, are members of Beth El Congregation of Baltimore. Eyal Bor serves as the director of the synagogue’s Congregation Schools and its Rabbi Mark G. Loeb Center for Life Long Learning.

Hana Bor first got involved with the Holocaust center’s development five years ago, as she felt that there was a need to do more work on Towson’s Holocaust education-related offerings. She developed several Holocaust-focused courses for students and founded its Holocaust Education Graduate Certificate, a 13-credit program meant to train educators in teaching the subject to their students.

Development on the center itself, which is housed in Towson University’s College of Liberal Arts building, began about a year ago. Many of the center’s resources are provided by the Albert S. Cook Library, which houses the former Baltimore Hebrew University’s collection of books and an archive of Holocaust-era materials that includes rare books from the time.

The Berman Center is the first dedicated Holocaust education center in the history of the University of Maryland system. While there have been local Holocaust education efforts facilitated by the Baltimore Jewish Council, and the Jewish Museum of Maryland is working on a Holocaust exhibit as part of its ongoing renovations, the Towson-based center is unique due to its UMD affiliation.

“Throughout the University of Maryland system, there aren’t any Holocaust education centers housed in any universities,” Bor explained. “And we’re in a very good location to have one.”

Before the center opened, Bor and other Holocaust educators at Towson held symposiums focused on issues affecting the Jewish community over the past few years, such as antisemitism and the dissemination of misinformation. With the center now open, Bor is teaching a few upcoming classes, including one in the Family Studies department about family life under Nazi rule. The center is also planning a three-day teachers’ institute, which will include a trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and potentially to the Library of Congress.

In the coming months, the Berman Center will host several one-off events as well, such as a Holocaust survivor and his daughter coming to speak to students about his experience. Bor noted that anyone is welcome to attend, whether they are a student or not, and whether they are Jewish or not.

“Learning from history will help students create a better present and future,” she said. “I think we need to emphasize how knowledge is the basis of good liberal arts education, and that it’s important to use knowledge to form your own opinions.”

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