Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Receptive Ears Hear About the Shoah in Poverty-Stricken Iowa

David Wendt teaches ninth-grade English at Keokuk High School, a public high school in Iowa where the 700 students are almost all of German descent. The town has 30 churches for a population that barely exceeds 10,000. Most of the students have never left the town — or met a Jew. Wendt, who is known for the picture of Jerusalem that hangs in his classroom, is a link to a wider world for his students.

Like Barbara Pordy (please see accompanying article), Wendt has found that his students’ adversity often makes them more receptive to his Holocaust education curriculum.

Some 58% of Wendt’s students come from families living below the poverty line. When they read about the starvation in the concentration camps, Wendt said, they can identify firsthand with hunger.

So many of the students live in poverty that they are not shocked by the living conditions experienced in the ghettos of Eastern Europe. It is not uncommon to have several generations living together in tight accommodations. One student explained to Wendt that she lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her parents, grandparents and sister, as well as her sister’s boyfriend and baby.

Wendt says he is thankful that the community and the parents of his students are so receptive and supportive.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.