HOUSTON, TX (June 25, 2012) – A Navasota high school teacher and a Houston police crime scene sergeant will be the first to benefit from a new Holocaust Museum Houston fellowship named in honor of a Holocaust survivor, embarking on 20-day trip around historic sites and museums in the United States, Europe and Israel to strengthen their ability to teach about the Holocaust.
Patrick LeBlanc, who has spent 18 years as a police officer – 15 of those with the Houston Police Department – and Kathy Day, a history teacher at Navasota High School, have been selected as the first Lea Krell Weems Fellows at Holocaust Museum Houston.
The new fellowship was established by Weems’ children and grandchildren to honor Lea Krell Weems, founding member and president for many years of the Houston Council of Holocaust Survivors and a founding board member of Holocaust Museum Houston.
"As one of the thousands of children taken out of the concentration camps and hidden from the Nazis during World War II, our mother was taught to hide her religion and her history in order to survive,” said Weems’ daughter, Judy Mucasey. “She came to this country as a young girl, without knowing what had happened to her family, and lived with shame and secrecy until 1981, when she travelled to Israel on a trip organized for Hidden Children of the Holocaust. In Israel, mom learned that her parents had been sent to the infamous Auschwitz death camp, where they were murdered. That discovery led her on a 30-year mission to learn more about our family’s history, and to educate others about the Holocaust.”
“For many years, mom organized Houston-area Holocaust survivors, who served as resources and speakers for schools and community organizations. For 30 years, until her death in 2008, she spoke to thousands of students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, locally and in distant cities. Recognizing, however, that the survivors were aging and soon would be unable to pass on their stories, she began to raise funds to provide Holocaust education for local teachers. Each year since the 1980s, mom and her Council of Holocaust Survivors have sent two high school teachers to study in Europe and Israel. These teachers return to Houston equipped to teach students in our community not only about the Holocaust, but also about the lessons and warnings that may be drawn from these past events.
“As her children and grandchildren, we want to honor her commitment to Holocaust education. Therefore, in loving memory of our mother and grandmother, and in recognition of the important work she and the other Houston Holocaust Survivors have accomplished, the Markowitz and Mucasey families are honored to create the Lea Krell Weems Fellowship to continue her legacy of Holocaust education," she said.
Mark Mucasey, Judy’s husband, is a current vice chair of the Museum and was recently named chair-elect. Gary Markowitz, Weems’ son, is secretary of the Museum’s Board of Directors.
"This trip for me was a life-changing experience," said Susan Myers, who as a teacher was selected by the survivors to make the trip in 1992 and went on to become the Museum's current executive director. "To experience these sites firsthand truly changed my direction in life, and I am certain it will significantly change the way these educators are able to convey the lessons of the Holocaust to their students."
The new fellowship will send LeBlanc and Day to the Summer Seminar Program on Holocaust and Jewish Resistance, a summer study program with activities in Washington, DC; Poland; Germany and Israel this July. The program seeks to deepen teachers’ knowledge and strengthen their ability to teach about the Holocaust. Through the program, dozens of teachers every year are equipped to teach their students not only about the Holocaust and Jewish resistance, but also the lessons and warnings for today and the future that may be drawn from these past events.
“I was both honored and humbled to be selected for this program,” LeBlanc said. “To have the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the places that I have thus far only read about is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I do not take lightly. My hope is that this experience will not only enhance my ability to teach the lessons of the Holocaust, but will also greatly improve the learning experience for the law enforcement officers I am fortunate enough to teach.”
In addition to his police work, LeBlanc, who holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University and a master of arts degree in sociology from University of Houston–Clear Lake, has been a docent at the Museum since 2002 and has been working with the Museum and the Anti-Defamation League Southwest Region to teach the “Law Enforcement in Society: Lessons of the Holocaust” class since 2005. The day-long class draws on the history of the Holocaust to provide law enforcement professionals with an increased understanding of their relationship to the people they serve and their role as protectors of the Constitution. It incorporates a visit to the Museum, followed by a discussion of the implications of the Holocaust for modern-day law enforcement professionals. Participants also examine modern policing against the backdrop of the role of law enforcement during the Holocaust.
Day called her selection “an unbelievable honor.”
“I’ve always had an interest in the Holocaust – not only for the history value, but also for the lessons that can be learned. For more than 20 years, I have brought my classes to Holocaust Museum Houston, hoping they see firsthand what hate, bullying and standing by quietly while bad things happen can lead to. This trip will continue to educate me in all these aspects so that I may become a better educator,” she said.
Day will be blogging about her journey at http://atripback.blogspot.com.
After graduating from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Day moved to Navasota to begin teaching. She currently teaches U.S. history and advanced placement history to juniors at Navasota High School. She is a recipient of the Excellence in Education award from Texas A&M University, has been honored as the Texas DAR History Teacher, as Outstanding Texas Humanities Teacher of the Year and in Who’s Who Among American Teachers.
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.