On Thursday, April 16th the sixth graders of Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey presented their own “Museum of Jewish Heritage.” The project, titled “Me, My Family, My Heritage,” brought together elements of a recent literature unit on the Holocaust with each student’s quest to discover his or her own roots. The results of this self-study were displayed and narrated for the benefit of the rest of the school on Yom Ha’shoah.
The project had two separate aspects that achieved these two connected goals: one personal, one communal. Since the first year of middle school coincides with children becoming “of age,” it is timely for them to acknowledge their foundations. For many of the students, these matters may even be part of their bar/bat mitzvah preparations.
The sixth graders all delved into the stories behind their names and then wrote about their findings. Students were invited to prepare other paragraphs about family heirlooms, journeys, legends, or heroes. These essays were then arranged in displays containing photos, illustrations, and maps.
Though the personal aspect of the project was completed in time for Pesach, the first through seventh grade classes had the opportunity to appreciate the “Jewish heritage” displays on Yom Ha’shoah. The Holocaust is a difficult subject to address with young elementary school students, but guided displays of different families’ experiences and journeys—not limited to World War II—were an appropriate way to share with children positive, but varied, aspects of the Jewish experience in the last century. Holocaust related stories were shared, to be sure, but in the context of family heroes and stories.
Younger students visited these pop-up museums throughout the day. They walked through, read the displays and asked questions to the sixth grade presenters. The sixth grade teachers, Naomi Landsman and Adam Herman, helped the students prepare talking points with which to engage the students in the lower grades.
On a day dedicated to aspects of Jewish history that are difficult to transmit to elementary school children, RYNJ was pleased to initiate a project fitting for coming-of-age sixth graders and appropriate for young children. “Me, My Family, My Heritage” is sure to become a hallowed sixth grade tradition and a bridge for all students to visit our storied past and appreciate the hopeful present.