Fostering Empathy and Understanding at the JMM

Posted on November 30th, 2016 by

In this time of divisive politics and hateful language, I would like to highlight a few of the educational programs at the JMM in the past few month that I believe encourage dialogue and foster empathy and understanding. I would also like to share a few thoughts about how the Museum community as a whole can respond to our recent election.

I have always found the JMM to be a very welcoming and inclusive place that also aims to encourage dialogue on contemporary issues. In our mission, we strive to be a site of discourse and discovery, where individuals and groups are encouraged to draw connections to “events and trends in American History, to contemporary life, and to our hopes and aspirations for the future.” JMM Mission and Vision

Vanguard students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Vanguard students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Through our education programs, we strive to teach students about Jewish culture and traditions as well as work to find connections with their own stories and heritages.  Last month, a class of English as a Second Language students, including several refugees from Syria, visited from Vanguard Collegiate Middle School. We also had middle school students from Baltimore International Academy visit earlier this month.  I have been lucky enough to facilitate education programs in our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit for several of these schools. I have found it very rewarding sharing the stories of Baltimore’s Jewish immigrants to a younger generation of immigrants.

Lessons of the Shoah

Lessons of the Shoah

Earlier this month, about 275 students and 25 teachers participated in Lessons of the Shoah, a high school interfaith program, this year held at John Carroll High School. The theme of this year’s program was No Asylum: the Plight of the Refugees. One of the goals of this program is to use the Holocaust as a starting point to promote tolerance, understanding and respect among students of diverse backgrounds. From all accounts, it sounded like a powerful program which included film screenings, musical selections, hearing from a Holocaust survivor and discussions about current refugee issues.

ICJS Teacher Workshop

ICJS Teacher Workshop

I also attended a teachers workshop a few weeks ago called Jewish and Muslim Refugees: Connecting the Past to the Present where we watched the film “Lives Lost: Lives Found” about Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees, 1933-1945, took part in a gallery walk activity to raise awareness of Islamophobia and heard from an Iraqi Muslim refugee currently living in Baltimore.

Teachers work in groups at the ICJS workshop, hosted at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Teachers work in groups at the ICJS workshop, hosted at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

While I am very proud of the work we do at the JMM, I was also glad to read that other Museums have recently reaffirmed their their roles as safe and open spaces. Laura Lott, the President of the American Alliance of Museums, also offered insightful comments in response to the election. She wrote that “Our institutions are uniquely positioned to listen, learn, and educate; to give historical context; and to foster empathy and inclusion by sharing the stories and perspectives of all people.” To sum up, museums are more important than ever now and I believe they can play a role in helping the nation heal and move forward by serving as safe spaces to have difficult conversations. Museums can model a kinder, emphatic and tolerant society. If you would like to promote the work Museums do everyday, I would encourage you to participate in Museum Advocacy Day on Feb. 27-28 in Washington D.C.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Studying the Legacy of the Holocaust

Posted on February 4th, 2015 by

Lessons of the Shoah, a high school interfaith program, took place on February 3 at John Carroll High School in Harford County. Designed as a day of exploration, dialogue and commemoration using the Holocaust and its lessons as a starting point to promote tolerance, understanding and respect among students of diverse backgrounds, the program featured workshops, survivor testimony and student presentations and reflections.

Lessons of the Shoah, 2015

Lessons of the Shoah, 2015

More than 250 students and 30 teachers representing 21 schools participated in the day long program that was spearheaded by John Carroll teacher Louise Geczy and co-sponsored by the JMM and Baltimore Jewish Council. Participating schools included public (from Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County), independent and parochial (Jewish and Catholic) schools.

After an opening program in which students watched a video produced by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous documenting a reunion between a Holocaust survivor and the non-Jewish family that rescued him (learn more about the JFR at www.jfr.org), students attended two workshops of their choice. Options included genocide prevention led by Warren Marcus of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collaborators and Bystanders facilitated by Poly High School teacher Josh Headly, and a history of antisemitism by Father Bob Albright.

The JMM also lead a breakout session using our Lives Lost, Lives Found history kit to engage students in critical thinking as they analyzed photographs exploring the experiences of German Jewish refugees who found safe haven in Baltimore in the 1930s.

As part of the activity students worked in small groups to explore photos that were part of the exhibit.

As part of the activity students worked in small groups to explore photos that were part of the exhibit.

As a culminating activity, students create a timeline of photos.

As a culminating activity, students create a timeline of photos.

Teachers and students split up during lunch giving students the chance to get to know one another while teachers networked and listened to a panel of Holocaust educators who shared their tips for teaching the topic.

After lunch the entire group gathered for the most moving part of the program to hear Holocaust survivors Esther and Howard Kaidanow share their stories of survival.

Esther Kaidonow speaking.

Esther Kaidanow speaking.

Students gathered with the Kaidonows to express their appreciation.

Students gathered with the Kaidanows to express their appreciation.

Following the testimony, students worked in small groups to share reflections of the day.

Students working in small groups.

Students working in small groups.

They were asked to write down their final thoughts about the lasting legacy of the Holocaust on index cards that they posted for all to read.

Students posting their comments.

Students posting their comments.

Sample reflections

Sample reflections

Lessons of the Shoah is a program that the JMM and BJC have facilitated for several years in several different iterations. This was the second year that we have used the format of a day long program for students from many different schools. The impressive turnout of students and teachers from such a diverse group of schools and the beautiful reflections shared by students at the end of the day reflect the importance of providing opportunities for teens to learn from one another using the lessons of the Holocaust as inspiration for discourse.

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

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Lessons of the Shoah

Posted on May 18th, 2011 by

 

It is a Tuesday night, and a group of teens are gathered in a conference room at the JCC, laughing, talking with one another, and eating pizza. Suddenly the room grows quiet as Holocaust survivor Rachel Bodner begins talking about her experiences as a hidden child during the Holocaust. Students listen intently as she shares her story, and then ask her questions.

students listening to Holocaust survivor, Rachel Bodner

As Mrs. Bodner concludes her talk, a second speaker, George Mushayuma speaks about his experiences during a more recent instance of tragedy as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

students listening to George Mushayuma

Lessons of the Shoah students with Mrs. Bodner and Mr. Mushayuma

While learning about the Holocaust and contemporary genocide is being taught in classrooms throughout the Maryland, what is unique about this particular evening is that the audience includes teens from several different schools. These teens have elected to participate in Lessons of the Shoah, an interfaith initiative bringing together Catholic and Jewish high school students for a year-long series of programs that fosters dialogue and understanding among high school students of diverse backgrounds. Currently in its third year, and jointly sponsored by the JMM and Baltimore Jewish Council, students spend evenings learning with one another about basic tenets central to Judaism and Catholicism.

students listening as Father Robert Albright presents a talk on the Parting of the Way

While several sessions feature speakers, the emphasis is on having students share with one another their own personal reflections of the importance of faith in their lives. Field trips to the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore Basilica (http:///www.baltimorebasilica.org/)  provide additional opportunities for exploring ritual objects and sacred space. The goal of these programs is to encourage teens to learn from one another as they have opportunities to meet, socialize, and study together.

book group discussion on teen diaries

Students learn about the Holocaust, by reading diaries of teens who perished, listening to and meeting Holocaust survivors, and by visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (www.ushmm.org). Discussions and lessons about the Holocaust serve as a tool for inspiring participants to take action against contemporary injustices, and students work together on a group project that seeks to raise attention about a contemporary issue. Last year’s group decided to focus their attention on contemporary genocide in Darfur and took up a collection for shoes to send to victims. This year, the group decided to band together to combat bullying – a topic that has been in the news lately due to several prominent news stories about the tragic consequences of teens harassing their peers. At each session, students get together to brainstorm ways for raising awareness of this problem and to gather resources to advocate against bullying in schools.

The program culminates with student participation in the community Yom Hashoah program. Participants shared their group project with guests and walked in the ceremony’s processional. It was touching to see how much the program meant to the teens after spending the year learning about the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance.

On Tuesday, May 17, students, parents, and teachers gathered at Emmanuel Monastery for our final program celebrating their successful completion of the program. Students shared their reflections of what they have gained by participating in the Lessons of the Shoah as well as their future plans.

Congratulations to the Lessons of the Shoah class of 2011. We enjoyed spending the year getting to know you and are proud of your accomplishments!

To learn more about Lessons of the Shoah, contact Deborah Cardin at (410) 732-6400 x236 / dcardin@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

A blog post by Education Director Deborah Cardin.

 

 

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