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Teaching Humanity

A true story of Holocaust survival comes alive in the classroom.

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The seeds for "Izzy's Fire" were sown in 1997, when Beasley, who was writing about the newly opened Virginia Holocaust Museum, met Jay Ipson, the driving force behind the museum's creation. Many of the exhibits there center on his escape with his parents, Izzy and Edna, from the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania in 1943, their concealment by the Krivicius family for seven months in an underground pit , and their liberation and eventual move to Richmond. After they got to know Beasley, the Ipsons turned over to her Izzy's memoirs, which, along with interviews with Edna Ipson and other materials, are the basis for the book.

Although written for adults, "Izzy's Fire" is highly readable for eighth-graders, says Manchester Middle School teacher Patty O'Connor. She is one of the teachers at several middle schools using the book in class. O'Connor says that its powerful descriptions of emotion, courage and suspense are holding the attention of even her most challenging students.

"Izzy's Fire" meets a number of requirements for the Virginia Standards of Learning, but O'Connor says one of her primary reasons for choosing to teach the book is because of the "moral imperative" exemplified by the courage and sacrifice of the Krivicius family, the poor Catholic farmers who hid the Ipsons and 10 other Jews at great peril to themselves. Today, O'Connor says, "so many people are looking out only for themselves. It is important to teach the students that they should take care of those who are hurt or in danger."

Beasley recently visited with the students in O'Connor's classroom, where a student asked her what she would have done if she had lived during the Holocaust. She responded, "I can only hope that I would have been one of the people to provide aid." She challenged the students to think about their own prejudices and how they treat those who are different. "This is your world," she said. "It's a multicolored, multiracial, multiethnic world. All I can hope for is that I am asking you to think."

In the three months since the book's release, Beasley has been invited to make presentations at colleges and conferences in addition to public schools. In March, she will serve as the writer in residence at Manchester High School. She hints that a major publishing house may soon pick up the self-published book. She's hoping to continue her commitment to keeping the lessons of the Holocaust alive. S



Beasley will present readings and book signings at the following locations: Saturday, Feb. 26, 1-3p.m., at Precious Moments and Collectibles; Thursday, March 3, at 7 p.m. at Café Gutenberg; Saturday, March 5, 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Short Pump. For additional information, go to www.izzysfire.com.

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