Looking Back at a Great Year

Reflections on the
2016-2017 University Fellowship

Each year at the JFCS Holocaust Center, students from colleges and universities throughout the Bay Area apply for the Albert Jerassy University Fellowship. As part of this JFCS Holocaust Center program, two students benefit from a nine-month intensive study of the Holocaust that includes mentoring and teaching high school students, developing curriculum, working with primary source materials in the Tauber Holocaust Library and Archives, and gaining first-hand experience learning from Holocaust survivors. Upon completion, fellows are granted a stipend of $5,000 and course credit where applicable.

This past year, one student from University of San Francisco and one student from San Francisco State University joined the JFCS Holocaust Center staff as Albert Jerassy University Fellows. Colin Issel served as a Teaching Assistant for the Manovill Holocaust History Fellowship and Melanie Santos served as a Teaching Assistant for the Next Chapter. Passionate and creative, both of the 2016-2017 Albert Jerassy University Fellows brought a wealth of knowledge and experiences that enhanced the work of the Holocaust Center over the course of their fellowship.


Colin Issel, 2016-17 Albert Jerassy University FellowReflection by Colin Issel
Recent graduate with a B.A. in History from University of San Francisco

When I first came to the JFCS Holocaust Center, I was a sophomore in college and was interviewing to be a part of the Albert Jerassy University Fellowship. I was not picked that year, partially, I believe, because I could not stop drooling over the gigantic library of the Center. After a year spent studying in Berlin, I returned as a senior to interview again at the Holocaust Center in the hopes of having some time to spend with all those lovely books I had seen.

Soon after I was accepted, however, I realized that there was something much more rewarding and powerful in this work than the thousands of volumes within our walls: the ability to work with students, the next generation of historians and Holocaust scholars, community activists, biologists, bankers, politicians, mothers and fathers. The strength of the education at the JFCS Holocaust Center lies in a hope for a better future — a future that can be free from genocide. We believe that this future can be achieved through education, and this was the part of the Fellowship that became the most rewarding for me. I felt that I had become a part of something much larger than myself; it was an honor to be called on to create lesson plans and to participate in creating our class curriculum. The experience not only helped me grow, but it challenged me. The Albert Jerassy University Fellowship challenged me to be a better historian, to dig deep, and to explore different viewpoints of historical perspectives, particularly the Jewish experience. In addition to these challenges of historical methodology and perspective, working at the JFCS Holocaust Center has given me an array of administrative and technical skills that I know will come in handy along the road. I feel confident in saying that working at the JFCS Holocaust Center has been one of the highlights of my academic and personal life, stimulating me as a scholar, and nurturing me as a human.

I have not stopped drooling about the books, but my experience here has given me an appreciation of history and pedagogy much deeper than I previously understood. I sincerely hope that someday I will cross paths once again with the JFCS Holocaust Center.


University Fellow Melanie SantosReflection by Melanie Santos
Recent graduate with a B.A. in Comparative Literature from San Francisco State University

I can’t express how fortunate I am, to have experienced the University Fellowship with the JFCS Holocaust Center. Over the course of the year, my mentors gave me every opportunity to learn not just about Holocaust education, but about being an effective teacher and leader in our local and global communities. Upon receiving their generous acceptance, I was both elated and more than a little terrified about working with such an accomplished group of Holocaust scholars and local high school students. My greatest insecurity going into the program stemmed from my educational concentration as a comparatist in literature, which ironically was what inspired me to apply. After studying Holocaust and Literature, I thought I could bring a new perspective to young students studying these core global events; but what I gained from the experience was so much more than anything I had hoped to contribute.

The program began with administrative assignments that opened up an entire vein of behind the scenes work that teachers and organizers do in order to prepare, create, and deliver educational opportunities to students. These projects segued into professional relationship building that started with the team of educators and coordinators at the center and rippled out into relationships with our brilliant high school applicants. After including me in the screening process, I found myself at the center of some of the most engaging and relevant conversations and activities with young scholars and seasoned educators.

While collaborating with Yedida, Morgan, Nikki, and Colin (the other University Fellow), I gained a working knowledge and practice with lesson planning, researching, administration, and follow up communication. Working alongside Yedida with The Next Chapter curriculum I learned how to prepare for class activities and conversations with purposeful intent, flexibility, and focus on driving students to ask larger questions versus the antiquated lecture approach. Morgan and Nikki were always available to support me whether it was helping me fulfill my roles at organized events or showing me how to successfully run the dreaded mail merges.

Among the highlights of my experiences with the center, I have to say the most challenging and exciting assignment was the joint lesson. During this project I got the chance to generate my own lesson using my expertise in literature as a cornerstone for our lesson. It was a long and rigorous process, but seeing the fruits of those labors through student participation gifted me with the unparalleled feeling you get when you’ve had a positive effect in someone’s life.

I am leaving the program with a number of new skills and experiences that will continue to aid me in my pursuits. I know I will be connecting with the center again in the future.


For more information about the Albert Jerassy University Fellowship, please contact Yedida Kanfer, Coordinator of Education Services, at YedidaK@jfcs.org or 415-449-3748.

Special support and funding are made possible by the Albert Jerassy University Fellowship Fund. 


Posted by Admin on September 4, 2017

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