New Jersey college first to offer Holocaust masters

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — An Atlantic City area college will offer a master's degree program in Holocaust and genocide studies — believed to be the first of its kind in the nation — beginning this fall.

Officials of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona say the program, which takes an interfaith, interdisciplinary and international approach, is designed to help teachers teach about the Holocaust. While other institutions may offer students an opportunity to receive master's degrees while pursuing Holocaust knowledge, most of those programs are through history or Jewish studies departments, said Marcia Sachs Littell, director of the program.

"This program is geared toward educators, teachers," Littell said, adding that few have the foundation to teach the Holocaust.

"We need to give them tools, training and background," she said. "We put enormous responsibility on teachers in the classroom. There are lessons for all of us to learn."

So far, the program is popular. Officials originally envisioned 15 to 18 full- or part-time students enrolling in the infant program. Littell said 25 students have already registered, with more applications expected for the fall term.

Teachers in the program include Jews, Catholics and Protestants. The program will also address continuing friction among different ethnic groups across the United States.

"It is my hope that every student at Stockton College will take at least one course on the Holocaust," President Vera King Farris said in a written statement. "Until then, we will strive to continue to lead in the area of Holocaust education. Our new master's program is a critical step in that process."

Courses in the program include: History of the Holocaust; Jewish History and Culture in Eastern Europe; Psychology of the Holocaust and Genocide; Holocaust and Genocide Education; History of Genocide; Holocaust in Film and Literature; and Theology, Philosophy and Ethics.

Littell has arranged partnerships with Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem and other Holocaust resource centers.

The centers will be available for student research projects and master's thesis work.

"We feel it is important for all people," Littell said. "Once you really understand the significance — really internalize it — of the Holocaust, nothing is ever the same."