Jan 2003 Journal

previous article:Central Office for Holocaust Claims

Reaching out to the next generation - Beth Shalom Web Centre

‘I cannot start to sum up my thoughts on the Holocaust’, says Shaun Maskney, a 15-year-old student from Derby. ‘I found the truth, facts and stories both shocking and horrific, but I think by studying this we are learning how to prevent such dreadful events happening again.’

Shaun is one student among thousands whose lives have been touched by the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre. With AJR support over the last three years, Beth Shalom has been able to take that message of remembrance for the future - and the tools with which to do it - on to the Internet.

Launched two years ago, the Beth Shalom Web Centre involved establishing a suite of web sites under one ‘umbrella’ address, www.bethshalom.com. Now receiving 5,000-6,000 visitors per week, these sites are successfully extending access to Beth Shalom’s facilities and resources for an audience of a size that could never be handled at the Centre itself - and could not, in many cases, make a visit due to the distances involved. Yet while France, Germany, Poland, the USA, Israel, Russia, Australia and Japan are just a few of the countries from which site visitors come, most remain UK-based, and many are involved in full-time education.

‘The site is great for Key Stages 3 and 4’, says Fred Clayton, an RE teacher at Leicester Grammar School. ‘It’s well laid-out, so when I refer my students to it it’s very clear what they need to do. I also think the use of audio and video clips is excellent.’

‘As a teacher, I like the way I can give a research topic to my students and they can quickly find the relevant material on the site - be it the Nuremberg Laws, the Final Solution or whatever,’ says Fiona Assersohn, Acting Head of History at John Smeaton School in Leeds.  ‘Another aspect of the site that is very appealing from an educational viewpoint is its differentiation; it is both accessible and stimulating for children of all abilities. Many sites don’t find that balance.’

Academics and educators in the tertiary sector also value the Web Centre, not only for its specifically educational content but also for its excellent online bookstore and the information it can provide about Beth Shalom’s ongoing work. Taking part in a recent international conference addressing the rise of nationalism in Europe, Dr Jennifer Jackson-Preece of the London School of Economics took the opportunity during her keynote presentation to let the audience know how impressed she had been with the Beth Shalom site, describing it as an interesting and useful resource.

Plaudits have come from the industry too. The Web Centre is now featured in the education/training section of Macromedia’s showcase for the best UK sites on the net (www.macromedia.co.uk). Entry in the Macromedia showcase is widely viewed by web-design professionals as a mark of outstanding quality. ‘This demonstrates just how good a site Beth Shalom has been able to build with AJR support,’ says Dr Stephen Smith, who, with his brother James, founded the Holocaust Centre in 1995.  ‘Much more importantly, though, the user figures - and the overwhelming anecdotal evidence - show that together we have not only created something of technical excellence, but a tool that will reach thousands and help them learn from the past to build a better future.’
David Brown is Communications Officer at the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre.
David Brown

previous article:Central Office for Holocaust Claims