As a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Morgan Blum Schneider ’02 was deeply moved by stories of the Holocaust. By fifth grade, she had checked out every Holocaust book from her school library, prompting a worried call to her mother.
Schneider’s early interest was a precursor to her career trajectory. Today, as director of the JFCS Holocaust Center, a program of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, her job is to inspire remembrance, research, documentation and education. And it was her experience at Clark University that motivated her to channel her calling into a profession. “Clark shaped who I am,” she says.
Schneider chose Clark after a high school guidance counselor informed her about the newly established Strassler Center. The program was a perfect fit as she had recently participated in The March for the Living, a Holocaust educational program that included a visit to Auschwitz. Her senior project included lecturing about the experience, which elicited a powerful comment from a middle school student: “My father says that the Holocaust is a lie, but after seeing your photos from Poland and hearing your stories, I know it really happened.”
At Clark, Schneider was inspired by Strassler Center founder Debórah Dwork’s course, Rescue and Resistance, co-taught with the Dutch resistance hero Marion Pritchard, and a course taught by Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer in which his storytelling about the Holocaust in the Ukraine was the primary resource because no appropriate academic text was available in English. She learned about the Armenian Genocide under visiting professor Henry Theriault, who went on to advise her senior thesis about the process of dehumanization.
Rounding out her Clark career, Schneider interned at the Anti-Defamation League and Facing History and Ourselves. She also taught religious school at a local synagogue, transforming the outdated curriculum with lessons drawn straight from her Clark seminars.
After earning her master’s degree in 2005 from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, Schneider joined the Holocaust Center of Northern California, eventually moving into the role of director of education. By 2008, the Center was floundering due to the financial crisis and she was part of the team that merged the program with JFCS.
Today as director, Schneider continues to advise school districts, California legislators, and civic leaders on Holocaust and genocide education, instances of antisemitism, and best teaching practices. Her education workshops reach more than 28,000 annually in the Bay Area community where she lectured as a high school student. She also testified before the state senate as an expert witness advocating for legislation raising awareness and establishing a Governor’s Council on Holocaust and genocide education. Recently awarded a substantial state grant, her team is developing new strategies for using lessons from the Holocaust to encourage California youth to be morally courageous and socially responsible.
“We are at a crucial intersection in time, with the survivor generation rapidly aging and antisemitism surging. Our call to action is to become ambassadors of this history. It is our responsibility to bring the voices of the survivor into the classrooms of the future. am proud to be part of the progress being made in California,” Schneider said.
Throughout her career, Schneider’s Clark network has been a source of continued support. She often seeks advice from her mentor, Debórah Dwork, and Strassler Center doctoral students she meets at conferences and workshops. New challenges and opportunities lie ahead as she charts a course that keeps her focus on her abiding passion for genocide education and history.
“Education continues to be our greatest tool in fighting hate and confronting antisemitism,” she says. “We must invest in the future of our society, work together, and use our voices. The next generation is watching us.”
Mary Jane Rein is executive director of the Strassler Center.