SJCS TEACHER MARLA PALMER APPOINTED TO STATE HOLOCAUST COUNCIL
By Bob Castello
SJCS Director of Communications
Marla Palmer had no idea that it was good news.
“I got home from week’s professional development course and there was a letter from the South Carolina Senate in my mailbox. I was kind of shocked,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, no. Am I in trouble?’ ”
The letter Mrs. Palmer received earlier this summer, which came from the President of the South Carolina Senate, Harvey S. Peeler Jr., informed her that she had been appointed to serve on the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust.
Mrs. Palmer, a World History teacher at SJCS, is serving at two-year term that began July 1 and runs through June 30, 2021.
A few hours after receiving the letter, Mrs. Palmer was contacted about a background check.
“I have nothing to hide, but it sounded like a bigger deal than I had realized,” she said.
This exciting chapter in Mrs. Palmer’s life began last summer when she took a class sponsored by the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust, which included a curriculum and an instructor affiliated with a national educational organization called Facing History and Ourselves. It was a Professional Development seminar on the Holocaust and Human Rights and how to integrate this curriculum into both middle and high school settings.
The conference, in Columbia, was sponsored by the Council on the Holocaust. Following this conference, Mrs. Palmer was invited to sit on the Teacher Advisory Committee, which is also affiliated Council on the Holocaust.
“It’s for teachers from around the state to come and plan professional development opportunities for teachers, scholarship money for students, and opportunities to hear survivor testimonies. One of the goals of both the Teacher Advisory Committee and the Council on the Holocaust is to help of keep the memory of the Holocaust alive so that it never happens again,” she said.
“This is important, both for its historical value and to learn to pay attention and recognize what goes on in the world around us and to try to prevent future genocides from occurring. The training helps give educators the knowledge and tools we need to teach students to pay attention and to have the courage to stand up and do something.”
Marla Palmer took a course at Queens College in Charlotte this summer that was affiliated with The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights. Here the class was attending a Shabbat (Friday night Sabbath) service at a local synagogue.
Earlier this year, Mrs. Palmer received a call from a founding member of the board of the Council on the Holocaust, who invited her to apply for this position.
“I didn’t know quite what it meant, but she kept urging me,” Mrs. Palmer said. “She said the governor appoints these positions.”
Mrs. Palmer was asked to fill out a “Statement of Interest” form that goes into a pool of other interested people to be selected by one of the three appointing offices: the Governor’s office, the Speaker of the House’s office, and the President of the Senate, should they so choose to use those interest forms as a guide.
Having been appointed, Mrs. Palmer expects to be busy.
“So now I’m sitting on these two councils, which require going back and forth to Columbia four times a year for council meetings and putting on events around the state to raise awareness,” she said.
The appointment and the Holocaust have special meaning to Mrs. Palmer.
“My grandmother was born in Hungary in 1915 but was brought to America by her parents when she was 6,” she said. “My mom and dad were born here. So a lot of my family escaped antisemitism in Europe before it got really bad and it was too late to leave. My father’s family came from Russia and Poland even earlier and settled in New York. I still have one Holocaust survivor in my family who survived Auschwitz and is now in his 90s.
“Although both my parents were Jewish, I became a Christian at 13 but I have always been deeply interested in my family heritage. I also studied modern European history in college and grad school, with a specific focus on antisemitism and the Holocaust. One of my favorite professors in grad school, Dr. Al Lindemann, a renowned historian, has written many books in this field. I loved the way he wrote and taught, so it all just kind of came together for me.”