Patrick LeBlanc selected for first Lea Krell Weems Fellows at Holocaust Museum Houston
A Navasota High School teacher and a Houston police crime scene sergeant have been named as the first fellows from the Holocaust Museum Houston.
The Lea Krell Weems Fellowship was named in honor of a Holocaust survivor. Patrick LeBlanc, who has spent 18 years as a police officer, and Kathy Day, a history teacher at Navasota High School, have been selected as the first fellows in the new program.
The fellowship was established by Weems' children and grandchildren to honor Lea Krell Weems, founding member of the Houston Council of Holocaust Survivors and a founding board member of the 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, in a press release. "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 traveled 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," Mucasey said.
Mark Mucasey, Judy's husband, is a current vice chair of the museum and was 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 teacher Susan Myers in the release. "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 fellowship will send LeBlanc and Day to the Summer Seminar Program on Holocaust and Jewish Resistance, a summer study program with activities in Washington, D.C.; Poland; Germany; and Israel. The program seeks to deepen knowledge and strengthen individual's ability to teach about the Holocaust. Dozens of teachers every year are equipped to teach students about the Holocaust and Jewish resistance, as well as 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 being a police officer, LeBlanc has been a docent at the museum since 2002 and worked with the Anti-Defamation League Southwest Region to teach a daylong class that draws on the history of the Holocaust to provide law enforcement with an increased understanding of their relationship to the people they serve.
"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," Day said.
Day will blog about her journey at atripback.blogspot.com. She 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.
For more information about the Holocaust Museum Houston, located at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, call 713-942-8000 or visit hmh.org.