This blog was written by Social Studies teacher Bill Mason, currently a teacher at Our Lady of Fatima School in Jackson Heights, Queens. Bill has attended a number of our summer teacher trainings, and he was happy to share what draws him to the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Friends often ask me “What’s a nice Catholic boy like you doing spending all your time in a Jewish museum?” Well, the answer is simple: learning to be a better teacher. I was introduced to the Museum of Jewish Heritage seven years ago through Bearing Witness, a program that familiarizes Catholic school teachers with the issues surrounding Jewish-Catholic relations and a methodology for properly teaching the Holocaust in the classroom. Since then, I have taken several workshops and seminars at the Museum, all of which have greatly enriched my knowledge of Jewish history and the Holocaust.
This summer I attended two seminars: Holocaust: The Role of the Professions and Teaching about Jewish Heritage and the Holocaust. A problem that many Catholic school teachers face is the student’s lack of identification with Jewish culture and Holocaust issues. “What does this have to do with me?” is often the mantra of the students. Through the use of testimonies, exhibits in the Museum, and classroom-useable materials, we are able to help our students with this difficult topic.
MJH serves as an indispensible resource for teachers by providing illuminating speakers such as Fr. Dennis McManus and the many survivors who share their often horrific but triumphant stories of survival. In addition, Elizabeth Edelstein’s Education Department provides pedagogical training for teachers in the use of the Museum’s Core Exhibition. I highly recommend MJHs workshops and seminars to all of my colleagues as a wonderful educational experience and an opportunity for truly amazing professional development.