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U of T’s Dr. Karen Devon prescribes ‘school awareness’ as an antidote for antisemitism

Empowered by the resilience and strength of her late father and Holocaust survivor, Morris (Moishe) Devon, Dr. Karen Devon, Associate Professor and Endocrine surgeon at Women’s College Hospital stands up against antisemitism by being involved in the Carrying Testimony program, which aims to “teach about the Holocaust through Survivor first-hand testimonies” which need to be preserved and carried from one generation to the next.

As part of this awareness program, Devon attends schools throughout Ontario on a weekly basis to reach out to and educate students in grades 4 to 11 about the subject.

As for the reason behind her taking part in this initiative, Devon says that “Given the rise of antisemitism recently, along with all forms of racism, the opportunity to educate young people about the impact of harmful rhetoric and ideology has become one of the most meaningful things I do.

Devon has been invited to speak about the initiative in several events and webinars, including the virtual “In Conversation with a Survivor” speaker series held by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), in partnership with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR). The webinar recording can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNgVqdtCMEA.

She has also participated on several panels on Medicine in the Holocaust, including those hosted by the Ontario Medical Association, and Queen’s University.

Webinar participants, researchers, teachers and students have expressed their appreciation of Devon’s contribution to this cause, asserting that it creates awareness on the issue in a transparent, sincere way by reaching out to the youth, who can pave the way for a more tolerant future.

Here are 2 testimonies, as sent by school teachers whose classrooms were part of the program:

  • Just wanted to let you know that our students found the presentations by Dr. Devon to be highly impactful, emotional and riveting. Thanks for providing them with a great experience. I will definitely be in touch for second semester.” ~ Mr. Fantauzzi 
  • Thank you so much for sharing your personal story about your father with my class. My students were so interested in your presentation they barely made a sound. They also were deeply moved by your father. I personally had to hold back my tears as I understood the pain your father endured. After your presentation the kids went home but we discussed the Holocaust the next day. Several of my students told me that they had gone home and researched more information about the way the Jewish people were treated and shared a lot about what they had learned on their own. I just wanted to let you know that you and your father (his story) had a beautiful impact on my students. My students now understand that it is also their responsibility to remember the Holocaust and make sure that future generations never experience antisemitism again. Thank you again for sharing your story and thank you for having the courage to be part of this initiative to educate people about antisemitism.  I look forward to hopefully having you tell your story again with all my future students.” ~ Ms. Vono

Dr. Devon can be contacted to speak about the cause and about the outreach initiative at any time. (Email: Karen.Devon@wchospital.ca)

Dr. Karen Devon with her Father