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Bucks County Community College explores history of Holocaust


Bucks County Community College, which has been responding to residents’ educational needs since its founding nearly 60 years ago, introduces History of the Holocaust, a three-credit course offered for the first time in the spring semester.

In addition, later in the spring, the college is hosting a panel discussion with the author of the book, “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project,” which tells the story of a Polish woman who saved several hundred Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto.

Professor Paula Raimondo, who first proposed the new course last summer, says students will explore the history of the Holocaust through multiple perspectives, and as a framework for interpreting modern genocide.

“Studying the Holocaust is a starting point for looking at such a broad range of human behavior,” said Raimondo, who is a Ph.D. candidate in Holocaust and Genocide studies at Gratz College. “For instance, think about all of the human rights and the democratic institutions that we take for granted, how fragile they are, and how important it is to protect them.”

Some of the topics to be discussed are the motivations, roles, and responsibilities of individuals, groups, and governments when confronted with civil and human rights violations, war crimes and genocide.

“What you stand to learn in a class like this is so much more than history,” added Raimondo. “You’ll learn critical thinking skills and information literacy skills. You will really start to build a framework for interpreting the world and how we should treat other people.”

The course comes at the right moment, amid a rise in antisemitism in our country, according to Kevin Antoine, J.D., the college’s associate vice president for external affairs and chief diversity officer.

“For some historians, the 2020s are echoing themes that started the rise of antisemitism in the 1920s,” Antoine noted. “In this course, students will be exposed to the brutality of falsehoods that led to the genocide of a people. The course will examine how to prevent the Holocaust from happening again, and how to build trust and civility between people of faith who worship differently.”

History of the Holocaust will meet from 10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting Jan. 18 and concluding May 9 (no classes during spring break, March 19 and 21). Tuition is $165 a credit for Bucks County residents, plus additional fees. The course is open to guest students, so no prerequisite or placement testing is required. To register, visit and look for course number HIST 133.

Meanwhile, Raimondo says the public is invited to a free panel discussion April 16 with Jack Mayer, author of “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project.”

As part of a secret World War II organization called Żegota, Irena Sendler (1910–2008) rescued several hundred Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto — providing false identities and hiding places in orphanages, convents, and private homes. Mayer’s book weaves Sendler’s story with that of the Kansas students who helped tell it to the world.

“We will unpack what it means to resist, rescue, and build community in times of war and conflict with the panelists,” Raimondo said.

In addition to author Jack Mayer, the panel will feature:

Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy of Kol Emet, Yardley; Barbara Simmons, adjunct professor, international peace and conflict resolution, Arcadia University, and executive board of NAACP, Bucks County Chapter; and Nancy Isserman, co-director, Transcending Trauma Project, director, Operation Home and Healing, Council for Relationships and faculty, Holocaust and genocide studies, Gratz College.

“Life in a Jar” panel discussion takes place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, in the Zlock Performing Arts Center on the Newtown Campus of Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, Newtown. Admission and parking are free.

To learn more about the History of the Holocaust course or the April 16 panel discussion, contact the Department of Social and Behavioral Science at or 215-968-8270.

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