Holocaust Education at the JMM

Posted on June 7th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

A few months ago, a report came out that more than one-fifth of millennials in the US, (a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century), haven’t heard of or aren’t sure if they’ve heard of the Holocaust according to a study which was commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Additionally, 41 percent of millennials believe two million Jews or fewer were killed during the Holocaust; and two- thirds of millennials could not identify in the survey what Auschwitz was.  According to the news release on the findings, the survey found critical gaps both in awareness of basic facts as well as detailed knowledge of the Holocaust.

I was a little surprised by the report, as I see Holocaust education as one of the primary topics that we focus on at the JMM, with many teachers choosing to bring school groups to learn about our historic synagogues, Jewish customs and see our exhibitions that are related to the theme. In addition, every summer we offer a three- day workshop, Summer Teachers Institute, which provides educators with tools and resources on the best practices in Holocaust education.

Yesterday, I was very happy to see that the study was WRONG! We had a school group from DC public schools visit the Museum.  The teacher was previously a Baltimore City Public School teacher who was very familiar with our education program. Her students (3rd to 5th graders) had just finished reading, Number of the Stars (1989), a work of historical fiction by American author Lois Lowry, about the escape of a Jewish family (the Rosens) from Copenhagen, Denmark during World War II. The story centers on ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen, who lives with her family in Copenhagen in 1943.

When the teacher made her reservation for the field trip with Paige, JMM’s very capable Visitors Services Coordinator, the teacher knew exactly what she wanted her students to take away from their visit. She wanted her students to learn more about Judaism and visit the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue; she wanted to have her students participate in one of our most popular education programs, Lives Lost: Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1933-1945; and she contacted the Baltimore Jewish Council so that the students could hear personal testimony from a survivor of the Holocaust.

The students’ visit was perfect timing, as it was the second day for our summer interns, and I felt that having the interns observe the school group, would help the interns see first-hand, the education program in action at the JMM.

The students from the DC public school were fabulous. They were engaged in the archival activity program relating to the Lives Lost: Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1933-1945; exhibition. The students loved seeing the Lloyd Street Synagogue and loved learning how to read the Hebrew Alphabet.

The most profound part of their time at the JMM was watching the students as they listened very intently to the testimony of Mrs. Herta Baitch, who told her story of coming to the United States as a child with the German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society and moving in with a foster family here in Baltimore. Following Herta’s testimony, the children had the opportunity to ask questions, many of them thoughtful and also amusing.

After a lot of clapping, the children literally got themselves into a receiving line, and each student went up to Herta to thank her and hug her. It was such a spectacular moment!

Our education department is very proud that these students had such a wonderful engaging field trip experience yesterday, and hopefully that experience we offered will make the students better citizens and future leaders to ensure that our history and the Holocaust will never be repeated again.

Registration is now open for our 2018 Summer Teachers Institute – you can find more information and the registration form here.

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It’s All About Making Connections…

Posted on April 16th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

Sometimes, being the Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement can be very stressful-trying to meet deadlines, meeting school groups, developing education resources.  Many days are harried, many days are just plain FUN, and at the end of the day- our work is about making those meaningful connections.

Let’s go back to last Thursday. The school group from the NAF Academy has arrived at the JMM – their visit includes a tour of the historic synagogues, where the students will learn about the different immigrant groups that used the building and about Jewish rituals and traditions.  The students ask great questions and enjoy learning about Judaism and Baltimore history less than 1 mile from their school.

This group was the first group of students that went through Amending America: The Bill of Rights.  The students were given a gallery guide to help them self-guide through the exhibit.  The students were engaged as the meandered through the gallery.   I looked up and I saw one of the students call out to his buddy, “Hey, get a picture of this!”  I looked up and instantly- a smile came to my face- this student saw himself at the March on Washington D.C in August 1963.

He was connecting to the exhibit, he saw himself as one of the protesters marching for civil rights back in history!  Our hope is that students find personal connections to our exhibits.

Less than 15 minutes after the group left, I hopped in my car and headed to John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Maryland.

John Carroll is a Catholic High School in Harford County and the JMM has a strong relationship with the school.  We were invited to be a part of the #TogetherWeRemember program that honors the millions of victims that were killed during the Holocaust and other genocides that have occurred in our lifetime.  #TogetherWeRemember combines, technology, art, and activism to transform remembrance to of past atrocities into a powerful tool for building peace in the present.  I went up to John Carroll because I volunteered to be a reader of names of victims.

Never would I imagine that reading the list of names would be so incredibly powerful. I was given a list of about 100 names, all who were victims of the Holocaust.

As I began to read the names, I noticed a common thread, the first names were either Moises, Chaim or Chaya.  In fact, these three names were the only names that I read for the 10 minutes.  As I got further in the list, it struck me that I kept repeating my own Jewish name, Chaya.  In fact, I repeated the name 44 times throughout the 10 minutes.

I got off the podium, slightly drained and emotional.  I was thinking about the 44 women who perished during the Holocaust- their families- and if anybody ever says their name and remembers that they once lived during the 20th century.  So powerful.

This Thursday, April 19, 2018, you can be a part of this powerful program too as the JMM is hosting a #TogetherWeRemember program @ 7:00 p.m.

Sign up, bring a group of friends, make your own connections and be a part of this transformative program.

 

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Judging My Family Story

Posted on March 21st, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

Make sure to stop in by March 25th, it’s your last chance to see these amazing projects!

This was my first experience working with the My Family Story project, an amazing program done with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

As the projects came in to the Museum it was amazing to see the creativity and thoughtfulness that each child put into their piece.

I was even more amazed by the work when the curator statements where added, revealing the carefully researched stories behind each piece of art.

It was a great honor to be asked to judge the event, along with members of the JMM Board of Trustees, and JMM volunteers.

Each judge was given a group of projects to look at and to view them in turns of aesthetics, creativity, depth of research and Jewish peoplehood. This helped allow me to focus on the projects – otherwise I might not have been able to decide! Every project told an incredible story of a family’s journey and I was impressed by all the work that was done.

Each judge then presented their top projects, which were discussed and reviewed by all the judges.

All the finalists were amazing and it was truly a difficult decision to get down to the final two for the Beth Tfiloh group. One of the projects I selected as a “top two” was chosen as a winner! Erela I.’s piece was beautifully done, and her curator’s statement truly showed the thoughtfulness and research that went into the work.

The Winning Projects from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School:

Erela I. ’22, A Light Surrounded by Persecution

Erela’s “Curator Statement:”

My Family Story display shows my family’s heritage of religious Jews who lived in Iran. In my project I have a black surface with a collage of images of Persian Jews, Arabic writing, and the persecution of Jews in Iran. The collage represents the environment that both of my parents grew up in. One filled with hate and bad opinions towards all Jews. My family was surrounded by this threat of danger all throughout their lives in Iran until they immigrated to the US in 1984 and 1992. In the center of my project is a figure shaped like an open house. This represents my family’s safe haven in a habitat of darkness. Set up inside of the house is a setting of a Shabbat night dinner table with lit candles a family saying Kiddush. These moments in Iran, in this event, represents the light that being Jewish brought to my family.

Maya T. ’22, 1801 West Mosher Street

Maya’s “Curator Statement:”

This representation of my family story depicts the grocery store that my great-grandparents owned when they moved to the U.S after surviving the Holocaust. My grocery store is made in a wooden box. Inside, there are four parts to the store. The fridge, resembling the frigid weather that my great-grandparents had to endure in the DP camps, and the shelves, with bread and crackers, resembling the only food that my great-grandparents were given. Then I made a fruit stand, with six different fruits with significance to six million Jews killed and the differences between each person and his story. Lastly, the tiles on the floor represent the silver dollars used to pay for the groceries at my great-grandparents’ grocery store. These silver dollars are very important to me because my great-grandmother saved those dollars and gives them to me and my brother when we lose teeth. Finally, on the outside of my box, I have created a collage of pictures with me and my great-grandmother because I am so fortunate to be able to know her and her amazing story. One of the lessons I can learn from my great-grandmother is independence. Even at 93, my great-grandmother makes the holiday meals for all of our family. I can also feel connected to her by the silver dollars that she gave me. I keep these silver dollars safe, and plan on giving them to my great-grandchildren, and telling them my great-grandparents’ story, in hopes of instilling their values in future generations, when the time will come.

I can’t wait to see what comes next year!

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