Although school is out for summer, director of education Elizabeth Edelstein is leading an advanced workshop this week for high school teachers about the role of the professions during the Holocaust. I always like seeing teachers in comfortable attire, ready to learn. I find when teachers are in the role of students they cannot help but encourage of a love of learning.
Earlier this spring I heard about a wonderful encounter in our galleries that was a result of this kind of encouragement. One of our lovely Gallery Educators, Geri Jacobs, was leading a tour of 10th graders from a charter school of Erasmus High School on Yom HaShoah. Her students represented a number of Caribbean islands; one student, a Muslim, was from Pakistan. This young Pakistani expressed his deep interest in the Holocaust after hearing from the survivors in the galleries. After a lengthy and moving tour, listening to testimony, and learning from artifacts, the boy asked Geri how she was going to commemorate Yom HaShoah that night. She replied that she was going to a service at her synagogue, which turned out to be six blocks from his home. He asked if could attend the service and she assured him that he would be most welcome.It was not until the end of the service, after the guest speaker had related his experience, and the survivors lit the six candles that she noticed the young man in back, wearing a white shirt and a yarmulke. He told Geri how much the experience meant to him. Geri then introduced the boy to the rabbi, the president, and practically every member of the congregation, telling them how they met.
As Geri shared in her e-mail, her new friend is a fine representative of today’s students, many of whom are born in other countries and do not have a lot of information about the Jewish people and the Holocaust. She went on to say, “What happened…reinforces the important role that the Museum plays in educating young people. It gives special meaning to the words LIVING MEMORIAL. It reinforces the reason why I volunteer at the Museum and the satisfaction that I receive when I can tell this story.”
It also reminds us that learning happens outside of the classroom, especially if one has a love of learning.
Photo: Thea Gottesman telling students about her experiences during the war. She made the blouse, dress, and bag that you see behind her shortly after being liberated from Mauthausen. Gift of Jack and Thea Gottesman Rumstein. Photo by Melanie Einzig.