“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” — Genesis 1:27

These words in Genesis form the basis of Christianity’s beliefs about what human beings are, what they are capable of, and ultimately what their value is. The imago Dei informs us of humankind’s innate goodness, our responsibility to be good and treat others with goodness, and our potential to bring good into the world which God created. In the second story of Creation, we see God walking and talking with the first people in the Garden. Combining these two stories, we see the nature of humanity as well as the relationship that God desires to have with us.

When we ask students what the nature of humanity is, they often answer “flawed, they make mistakes,” or even “evil.” Very rarely will a student answer with what I believe to be the correct answer: “Good.” Humanity was created to be good and to have a relationship with God. We have the perfect example in Genesis to admire and strive towards.

So why is there so much hatred, violence, and evil in the world? It is here in the great Free Will debate that much of our human existence lives. It is not that people are evil but that they make evil choices, harm others, and ultimately destroy the symbiotic relationship between people and God. This is the definition of sin.

In my work with Echoes & Reflections, I am confronted daily with the horrors and evil that humanity can choose as we work to understand, learn, and teach about the Holocaust. This dark and terrible history can teach us so many lessons about humanity – its propensity to choose evil, its commitment to choose goodness even in the most dire circumstances, the power of the human spirit — and ultimately it asks us deep questions of who we are, who God is, and what our relationship with God can be in the shadow of catastrophe.

As is stated in our Mission, “Echoes & Reflections is dedicated to reshaping the way that teachers and students understand, process, and navigate the world through the events of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is more than a historical event; it’s part of the larger human story. Educating students about its significance is a great responsibility.” We take this responsibility seriously as we create thoughtful, safe, and effective pedagogy, write clear and transformative lesson plans, offer numerous professional development programs-–from webinars to online courses to in-person sessions–-and interact directly with students with our digital self-directed student activities and our Timeline of the Holocaust.

Like studying theology, studying the Holocaust brings more questions than answers, and it challenges us to our core to understand how could this have happened, who are we, and where was and is God? At times, we are left to stare into the void of meaningless destruction. Because of the horrors of the Holocaust, to have personal faith without action is not enough. We have a moral obligation as human beings to work collectively to guarantee that nothing like the Holocaust will ever happen again. It is why I have devoted my life to Holocaust education and why the work of Echoes & Reflections is so valuable, important, and frankly necessary.

Jesse Tannetta is a former Catholic school educator and is now the Program Manager for Echoes & Reflections, specializing in providing professional development to middle and high school teachers focused on Holocaust education throughout the United States. He holds bachelor’s degrees in History and Catholic Theology from Emmanuel College as well as a master’s degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Gratz College.