The introduction session of the virtual study visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on June 12, 2020, was a special moment for ENCATE. The virtual study visit in October will focus on different programs of the Museum and allow European and American practitioners to develop shared educational skills.
This was the very first activity where we could act together as a single organization, as our just recently formalized network ENCATE. In this interaction with the USHMM, we did not represent just our individual organizations – every time we spoke for our joint network, too. This just might be one of the main benefits of joining forces in a united network: having the strength of a group while maintaining the identity as grass-root civil society organizations.
The fact that ENCATE is a multicolored mosaic of independent non-governmental member organisations of hands-on practitioners in the field of countering antisemitism, from various parts of Europe with the same, similar and very different experiences, needs and challenges to overcome, however strange it might sound, makes ENCATE actually the first of a kind.
Antisemitism is a global problem.
Addressing antisemitism is a complex process, which includes the legislative framework, monitoring, funding programs, coordination with Jewish and other communities, international cooperation, academic research, policymaking, and of course – education. We are talking about various aspects of education that contribute to the prevention of antisemitism, such as
- education about and remembrance of the Holocaust;
- education about antisemitism itself, its history and current manifestations,
- media literacy,
- education that contributes to strengthening democracy,
- democratic participation,
- critical thinking
- and active citizenship.
The processes behind coordinating this huge and complex work on the international, national, and local level, creating various policies, guidelines, and recommendations, as we know very well, is quite complicated. It often involves high-level decision-makers, academic experts, diplomats, and lots and lots of politics, which makes it both less flexible and very slow, but more importantly, quite far away from realities on the ground.
We all know that the engagement of OSCE/ODIHR, UNESCO, European Commission, European Parliament, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA, and many other important international institutions and organisations is crucial in the field of addressing antisemitism. But top-down sponsored educational programs, educational guidelines and funding strategies, not seldom miss the bull’s-eye, the focal point.
Sometimes these programs do not reflect enough various local historical, cultural, political, social, and many other realities and particularities. Sometimes these programs are too Western-centric, or focusing on specific problems that might be challenging at one place, but marginal or none existing at the other.
Of course that Mathan in Sweden, and Dominique in France, and Anna in Poland and Sharon in the UK, and Nevena in Serbia and Andrea in Hungary, of course, their challenges and problems are different – while many are similar.
Who else can voice what works and what doesn’t, what is needed, and what is obsolete, what kind of support is lacking – but us, who are on the frontline?
ENCATE, the network of independent practitioners, can and will be a part of this process, a partner in this process, a missing link between high-level decision and policymaking, and transforming these policies into best practices of countering antisemitism through education.
And just to be clear, ENCATE will not be in the business of collecting complaints and gathering examples of difficulties that the NGOs are facing on the ground. ENCATE will be a partner in the processes of reinventing the effective education that truly counters antisemitism.
Yes, the virtual study visit to the USHMM was a special moment for ENCATE – a moment when from a great idea and initiative from a couple of years ago, brought to us by KIgA in Berlin, ENCATE officially entered the international stage. We all would have loved that the USHMM visit could take place in Washington DC, as it was originally planned, but this is one of the new realities and challenges we have to adjust to.
I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the USHMM for their support, for this opportunity to learn and share, and to explore the ways we can develop this partnership between ENCATE and the USHMM further. But in particular, we appreciate that we could felt what it means to be a united team ENCATE for the very first time.
*This text is based on the speech held in the introduction session of the ENCATE’s Virtual Study Visit to the USHMM, on June 12, 2020.