January 2011: Aurélien Bonin [fr]
Aurélien Bonin: Head of Research and Translation at the Azrieli Foundation
Originally from Blois in the region of Loir-et-Cher, Aurélien Bonin travelled across the Atlantic in July 2007 to move to Toronto. As a graduate student, Aurélien earned his Master’s degrees in Philosophy and German and completed a program in teaching French as a Second Language. Following these impressive studies, he spent three and a half years in Germany where he obtained diplomas in Philosophy and History. Thanks to this enriching linguistic immersion, he was able to master the German language and to become a teacher of German in France. Armed with such solid experience and qualifications, Aurélien came to Ontario with the desire to teach French. In order to do so, he quickly took the necessary steps to have his education recognized and became a teacher in Ontario.
In 2008, Aurélien joined the Azrieli Foundation as the Head of Research and Translation. The Azrieli Foundation is a Canadian philanthropic organization established by David J. Azrieli, which administers and finances a series of programs and initiatives that promote access to education in various fields of knowledge. One of the principal roles of the Foundation is to publish memoirs of Holocaust survivors as part of a bilingual (French and English) education program created in the summer of 2005. “Given my studies, this was a period of history that I knew well,” he said, explaining how he developed genuine interest for his new responsibilities. In addition to the memoirs of Holocaust survivors, the Azrieli Foundation publishes teacher-resource guides that offer a general, pedagogical approach for teachers using the Holocaust Memoirs in the classroom. To date, the program includes 170 manuscripts. This effort to collect sources was made possible thanks to a wide awareness campaign and to the assistance of synagogues and other institutions in order to capture the attention of the community and the general public regarding this initiative. Aurélien’s part in the project includes the editorial work, copyediting, fact checking and glossary writing, in order to clarify concepts. But, he also helps with consciousness raising among francophone teachers in order to promote teacher-resource guides and the pedagogical aspect of teaching about the Holocaust. In this regard, Aurélien has greatly contributed to the success of events held in French during the Holocaust Education Week in November 2010, by organizing a visit to Toronto by a number of highly regarded French researchers from Paris’ Mémorial de la Shoah. This occasion was the first collaboration between the Azrieli Foundation and the French Consulate General in Toronto.
Between a professional life that allows him to grow and a city where he enjoys living, Aurélien has found his balance in Toronto. “My activities outside of work are essential. It is thanks to them that my life in Toronto is full and that I was able to create a social life.” Aurélien practices Krav Maga, a sport that mixes boxing and self-defence and that means “contact combat” in Hebrew. Moreover, he is taking continuing-education courses offered by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). From mechanics to interior renovation, Aurélien is curious to learn about new things, and this system of evening classes allows him to do just that. As far as his cultural roots are concerned, Aurélien reveals that he has found his own way of maintaining a link with the French culture: “Every day I listen to the radio shows “Répliques” and “Les lundis de l’histoire” broadcasted on France Culture.” It has become a daily ritual that helps him keep in touch with France. He does not plan on going back in the upcoming years: “I have built a life here… winters were hard in the beginning but then I got used to them…”
Aurélien’s future seems to be clear and determined. He sees himself as a Torontonian and will no doubt return to teaching, his very first project.
The memoirs of the Holocaust survivors published by the Azrieli Foundation are distributed free of charge to Toronto schools and libraries but are directed at the general public.