Learn from the past

York University’s Holocaust and anti-racism education program is getting a welcome boost, thanks to the generosity of philanthropists Mark and Gail Appel who donated more than $330,000 to the York University Foundation towards the initiative.

The program, newly named The Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Anti-Racism Education at York University: Learning from the Past -Teaching for the Future, is intended to help future teachers in York’s Faculty of Education and at York’s partner universities in Canada, Germany and Poland develop curricular responses to racism and anti-Semitism.

“The generous gift will provide continued support for this important teacher education program,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “Holocaust and anti-racism curriculum development and its application in the classroom will have a lasting benefit for the next generation of teachers and their students.”

The gift provides a basis for matching funds – other funding partners of the project are the participating universities, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin, the Baden-Württemberg Office for Democratic Education in Stuttgart, the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, Lufthansa German Airlines in Toronto, and private individuals.

The program was conceived by York professors Michael Brown, past director of York’s Centre for Jewish Studies, and Mark Webber, director of York”s Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES). Program highlights have included: “The Future of Memory” an international conference examining the changing contexts for Holocaust and anti-racism education, which took place February 2002, and a month-long field study for teacher candidates conducted in Poland and Germany, held summer 2001. The Appels’ gift will provide for a European field study in 2003 and 2005, and for conferences in Germany and Poland in 2003 and 2005, and in Toronto in February 2004 and 2006.

Mark Appel, QC, is a partner in the law firm Chappell Bushell Stewart, LLP. He has devoted his practice to commercial litigation. Appel is a former chair of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and currently a member of the Ontario Arts Council. Gail Appel began her career as a social worker in Saskatchewan. She has served on the boards of Havergal College, the Upper Canada College Foundation, and the Shaw Festival, and is currently on the boards of the C.M. Hincks Dellcrest Foundation and the Sunnybrook Hospital Foundation. She is also an accomplished artist.