Posted on August 10th, 2016 by Rachel
Art as Resistance
One of my favorite learning activities at this year’s Summer Teachers Institute was experiencing a lesson on the Jüdischer Kulturbund. After visiting the Holocaust Museum yesterday, I had learned a little about the Jewish cultural renewal that occurred in Germany in the face of discriminatory laws, and I was left wanting to know more. In perfect serendipity, one of today’s workshops was on exactly that. When all of Germany’s Jewish artists and performers were fired from their jobs, the Jüdischer Kulturbund formed to allow Jewish artists to continue creating, albeit within tighter restraints. We went through a practice lesson, which was designed to show kids how people use art as a form of resistance, and allow them to creatively engage in this idea. We were split up into groups, and tasked to create four pieces of art, each one with an added restriction. In order, they were: You cannot use the color red, you cannot use writing utensils, you cannot use construction paper, and you cannot portray the American flag, but you must represent the spirit of it. The activity was fun, and the wrap up questions afterward were also helpful in making the lesson more meaningful.
During my second semester at college, I taught a twice-a-week class about democracy and grassroots civic projects to middle schoolers, and lesson planning was definitely one of the most difficult parts. On the one hand, you want the students to get your Big Idea and really understand it, but on the other hand, they have to find it interesting and fun. An activity like the Jüdischer Kulturbund one I expereinced today would be the perfect blend of fun and thoughtprovoking. I could definitely see this being adapted to fit my classroom next year, and am encouraged by seeing the Maryland teachers here today share these innovative lesson plans and ideas.
Day One at Beth El Congregation
The biggest lesson I took from the Summer Teachers Institute program was the difficulty of planning Holocaust education. When dealing with such difficult and distressing subject material, it’s very difficult to stay responsive. My natural tendency when confronted with information about the holocaust is to shut down; I feel that there is so much about the holocaust ingrained in the modern Jewish sub-consciousness that I already know all the raw facts. Rather than just presenting information, the goal of holocaust education should be to illuminate the warning signs of impending tyranny and oppression, and to avoid the mistakes of the past, rather than the revel in the suffering of the past.
Holocaust survivor Goldie Szachter Kalib
During the Summer Teachers Institute, I was able to hear Holocaust survivor Goldie Szachter Kalib’s testimony about her experiences in Poland and Auschwitz as a young girl. Her powerful account demonstrated the lengths to which she and the adults around her went to keep her safe in the face of relentless Nazi cruelty. She so effectively conjured up the image of her as a Jewish child separated from her family in Nazi-occupied Poland; I will never forget her story. Hearing Mrs. Kalib speak emphasized to me that the victims and survivors of the Holocaust are all people with meaningful life stories, not just figures in photos or statistics in books.
Deborah Batiste presenting on “Echoes & Reflections”
The most mesmerizing part of STI was the combination of stories from the past and how they are being understood today. When we worked together in groups it helped me to understand what it means to be part of a community that does whatever they can to stand in solidarity. It emphasized what it truly means to be a person associated with a history people who have overcome tragedy through finding joy wherever they could. This circles back to the importance of supporting your community so that strength is built up in all the members of that community.
The Real Monuments Men
For the summer Teachers Institute program I was able to attend two days of the program, the Beth El hosted day and the JMM hosted Wednesday event. I was captivated by the events as they focused on the arts both during and after the Holocaust. I was particularly interested in the sections centering around the cinematography of the Holocaust as it happened and the fiction and non-fiction films/documentaries that emerged years after. I am interested in video and film myself so it was really interesting to learn about the effects of this cinema in the Jewish community.
For instance, I learned a majority of concentration camp footage was from Nazi propaganda, additionally allies used video footage of the camps for propaganda as well. I was also surprised to learn that the making of Holocaust themed movies has been a fairly recent endeavor. Movies I always assumed had some degree of accuracy were also debunked as well others I thought less of such as Uprising had hidden detail I wouldn’t have known about. I was also really interested to learn of one speaker’s story detailing the exploits of her father. He was one of the monetary men serving in WW2 to track hidden Nazi money and stolen art works. Her story about how she uncovered the classified documents in storage and rooted through them until she discovered the character playing George Clooney in the film Monuments Men was in fact her father. Overall it was a very interesting experience that I learned a lot from.
-O. Cade Simon
JMM Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon welcomes participants at the opening of our 2016 Summer Teachers Institute.
This week the JMM hosted the 2016 Summer Teachers’ Institute about Holocaust education. The theme this year was Holocaust Remembrance through the Arts. I attended both the first session at Beth El Synagogue and the third session at the JMM, unfortunately missing the visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. It was, above all else, a singularly moving experience to see so many teachers brought together for the purpose of learning how to better pass on the history and the story of the Holocaust in ways that students can understand and deal with meaningfully. It was also heartbreaking to hear and see so many stories of loss and grief, and knowing that even for those who survived they could never forget. Even though I don’t plan to go into education, I’ve already made plans to follow up on some of the material I learned about in these sessions and I’ll remember this week for the rest of my life.
“Skokie” and “The Wave”
During the summer teacher’s institute there was a lot of information to process. I found the section about Holocaust films especially interesting. I went to a living historian workshop during the spring and they also talked about the value of using film and T.V. to start a dialogue about history. It got me wondering about other films that could be used to tell the story of the Holocaust that might not be Holocaust films, such as “Skokie” which is good at continuing the story and showing that Nazi ideology did not die with the end of WW II, or “The Wave” which looks at a high school history experiment gone wrong to try and show students how the Nazis were able to rise to power. I feel these films would help to contextualize the Holocaust and show how its effects continued past the fact.
Spoken Work Haikus
Participants in “Music and Art: Exploring Responses to Oppression”
I’m not a teacher, and likely won’t become one, but that didn’t matter. The Summer Teachers Institute, especially the third day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, was a very enjoyable experience. My favorite part was with Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten during their presentation “Music and Art: Exploring Responses to Oppression.” When I first heard about its interactive nature, I admittedly felt apprehensive. I was tired and wanted another presentation like the first, where I could sit back and enjoy. The thing is, the moment we split up into groups to begin projects, I didn’t feel tired anymore. The presenter split us into groups of five and gave us the choice of either a visual art or musical project with specific restrictions. My group contained two other interns and two younger teachers, and we decided to do the musical challenge of writing a love song without the word love. We bounced around all kinds of ideas, the interns easily joking around with the teachers. Eventually, we settled on writing haikus about the love for humanity. Because this took us so long to decide on, as we were busy jotting down synonyms to love and deciding whether we wanted this to focus on a gentlemen longing for a maiden, or a maiden longing for a gentlemen (I was outnumbered), or whether it should follow the “traditional” haiku format with allusions to nature, we were still scribbling down stanzas while watching all the other groups present (everyone was amazing). Finally, I stood up to recite the spoken word poems, with the guys standing behind me and snapping for the musical element. One of the interns encouraged everyone to snap, and soon the whole room was snapping and grinning. I won’t remember the exact words of the other presenters, no matter how engaging. This experience, however, is something I doubt I’ll forget for a long time.
Josh Headley on incorporating graphic novels into Holocaust education.
The Summer Teacher’s Institute took place on August 1st-3rd, the final day hosted by the Jewish Museum of Maryland and was most interesting for me. As an aspiring social studies teacher, the programming and speakers at STI discussed a plethora of topics that I am interested in. My favorite speaker was Josh Headley, the head of the social studies department at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
Josh did an excellent job explaining how he has incorporated graphic novels into holocaust education. He went on to explain that by sparking his students’ interest in certain topics, he managed to inspire them to research other subjects that mattered to them. This very simple notion is often overlooked by the public school system and leads to disengaged students. Sir Ken Robinson, a renowned international educator, has said “If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance, very often. Children are natural learners.” Josh is exemplifying this concept by giving his students the tools that are necessary to further their education on their own.
The speakers and programs at STI were all beneficial to me and I look forward to using the abilities I gained as a teacher in the near future.
Posted on August 9th, 2016 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email email@example.com
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: December 11, 2015
PastPerfect Accession #: 1987.168.018
Status: Identified! The Liberty Jewish Center bat mitzvah class, 1974: some debates among respondents as to who is who, but general agreement as to the names of the students: Caryn Solomon, Lauren Weiner, Errol Alpert, Judy Seidel, Diane Zeitlin, Janine Satitsky, Gayle Bajarsky, Bonnie Kulp, Janet Nathonson, Rozzie Flaxman, Bonnie Ehrlich, Sandy Breiterman, and girls named Wendy, Ilene, and Tracy. The man in the center is Rabbi Jacob Max.
Thanks To: Diane Zeitlin, Heidi Deitchman, Judith Seidel Sweren
Posted on August 8th, 2016 by Rachel
This weekend I read an article in the Washington Post entitled “Sorry, Rio, but London and Beijing have ruined Opening Ceremonies for everyone” making an invidious comparison between past Olympic spectacles and the relatively more modest evening in Rio de Janeiro. It got me thinking about how this event went from an international amateur competition to a major made-for-tv extravaganza.
One turning point was David Wolper’s production of the 1984 LA Games complete with John Williams’ theme music and a visit from a flying saucer. An earlier, and much darker turning point, were Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Games and the beginnings of the games as an expression of national “virtues.” If you go back further, the games were a much more modest affair.
I turned to Paul Yogi Mayer’s book, Jews and the Olympic Games, for some insight into Jewish participation in the early modern Olympics. Put the words “Jewish” and “Olympics” in the same sentence and the likely rejoinder is champion swimmer Mark Spitz. Some may have memories of the tragic loss of Israeli team members at Munich and movie goers may still recall Harold Abrahams, the British runner whose story became Chariots of Fire. But in fact, according to Mayer there have been Jewish medalists in every Olympics since the revival of the modern games in Athens in 1896 and in every summer Olympics at least one Jewish gold medal winner. Historically, swimming is only the second highest sport for Jewish medalists. What’s number one? Fencing, go figure. He calculates 47 medals in total in fencing – from Austrian bronze-medalist Siegfried Flesch in 1900 to Russian gold-medalist Sergei Sharikov in 2000 (the late Mr. Sharikov won one more bronze medal in 2004 after Mayer’s book was written – American fencer, Sada Jacobson has won three medals since 2004 – moving the current Jewish fencing total to 51 – that’s a lot of swordplay).
American Sada Jacobson won three of the 51 fencing medals going to Jewish athletes from across the globe.
But of the earliest Jewish Olympians, three stories stood out to me. The first was Alfred Flatow, a German athlete who captured the first ever gold medal parallel bars and along with his cousin Gustav-Felix Flatow won two of the first team medals for gymnastics in Athens in 1896. In 1903, Alfred helped found of the Judische Turnerschaft, a Jewish fraternity that promoted Jewish participation in sports. He was prominently active in German gymnastics until he “voluntarily” gave up his gymnastics club membership in 1933. In 1938 the Flatow’s escaped to the Netherlands. Following Nazi occupation of Holland, the Flatows (over the protest of German gymnastics officials) were sent to Theresienstadt. There Alfred died in 1942; his cousin Felix in 1945.
The first Jewish American to win a gold medal was Myer Prinstein in Paris in 1900. Myer’s specialties were the triple jump and the long jump. The Polish born Prinstein was five years old when he came to America. He was captain of the Syracuse University track team. In deference to his Methodist school he honored his commitment not to compete in the Olympic final on a Sunday. His Christian teammate Alvin Kraenzlein did not feel so constrained. So Kraenzlein took the gold in the long jump and Prinstein had to settle for a silver (based on his performance in the preliminaries). Four years later in St. Louis he played for the Irish American Athletic Club (which apparently had no sabbath constraint), took the gold in both the triple jump and the long jump, setting a new Olympic record of 7.34 meters (by comparison, the 2012 long jump winner went 8.31 meters – still Prinstein’s jump would be among the top 35 qualifiers even a century after he made it)
The last of the early athletes that attracted my attention was Sam Berger – Olympic gold medalist in Heavyweight Boxing in 1904. Berger was born in Chicago but raised in San Francisco. Berger was 6’2″ and 200 lb. and had won most of his bouts as an amateur in California. It is not surprising that America won the first boxing gold medal – America was the only country that entered the competition! Berger was not able to turn his Olympic success into a comparable professional career. A disastrous fight in 1906 ended his quest for a pro championship. He would later serve as sparring partner for Jim Jeffries as he prepared for his challenge to Jack Johnson. He evidently did much better as a businessman than as a boxer, parlaying his interest in his brothers’ clothing store into $1 million by the time he died in 1925.
So when you are watching this year’s competitors in Rio, like gymnast Aly Raisman and fencer Eli Dershwitz, know that they are a part of a very long tradition.
Blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.