Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thinking out of the box with "Jew in the box"

היום תשעה ימים  שהם שבוע אחד ושני ימים בעמר
Today is nine days, which is one week and two days of the omer
גבורה שבגבורה
A day of strength in a week of strength

Both Tablet and The Jewish Daily Forward carried a story today about the new exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Berlin, “The Whole Truth: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Jews” Singled out in both articles is the last segment of the walk-through installation -- a Jewish man or woman in a plexiglass box whose role is to answer any questions the visitors ask about Jews. James Kirchick, the Tablet columnist, writes not only about the exhibit, but about his time spent in the box. Anne Hromadka, the Forward blogger, questions the exhibits whole approach.

When I read these articles, my mind jumped to the "Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race" that Hitler planned to create in the old Jewish quarter of Prague. The next thoughts centered on how I could use this exhibit and, specifically the "Jew in a box" piece in my classes. I'm teaching a course on the Shoah, the Holocaust, right now so this is naturally in the forefront of my mind. For that class I will weave the exhibit into the last class of the session, looking at what the Shoah means to us and the world now.

But I think this is something that can be used when I teach about Jewish identity. After all, the main thrust of the exhibit is, "what is a Jew?" It is very much about how others see Jews, and can be used as a reflection counterpoint to "what am I as a Jew?"

What these articles also spark in me is the ways I can use the exhibit to bring active learning to my students. Two have come to mind already. One is to set up groups to form their own "Jew in a box" exhibit. What questions would/should/could be asked; what would the answers be. How does it feel to be in/out of the box? Another would be to challenge the students to set up their own Jewish Museum--what would they include, how would they set up the exhibit.

There is so much discussion these days about the state of Jewish education--discussion that is sorely needed. We also need more than talk--we need action. I'm grateful to the growing internet resources in the Jewish educational world that allows me to create dynamic lesson plans that will, hopefully, give my students a sense and feeling of and a connection to their Jewish heritage.

1 comment:

Jean Tepper said...

I hope those students realize how lucky they are to have you as their teacher.