I hope all of the parents of eleventh graders will take the opportunity to ask their children about the full-day interdisciplinary study of the Shoah which took place on Monday, March 7, and was created and orchestrated by our extraordinarily talented co-coordinator of interdisciplinary studies, Mrs. Tikvah Wiener.
The idea for the day originated with the Ivrit Department which in Grade Eleven focuses on the Shoah. Mrs. Dafna Zilberschmid, Chair of the Hebrew Language department, forged a partnership with Ulpanat Harel, a school in Nahariyah, and the two schools planned our Holocaust integration days together and followed the same curriculum.
To begin the day, the juniors watched Life is Beautiful, a fable about the Shoah. Many of you will remember that the film was somewhat controversial because too many people who had not yet seen it were offended by what on the surface appeared to be a humorous treatment of the Holocaust. In fact, it is a beautiful and heart wrenching account of the Shoah which, we think, has a poignant message for both parents and children.
After the film students were divided into groups each of which experienced all of the following during the course of the day:
English: Dr. Anne Berkman, Mrs. Ruth Wang-Birnbaum, Mrs. Tikvah Wiener
Last week, students were assigned "The Shawl" by Cynthia Ozick, a short story about the Holocaust, and an essay from Crisis and Covenant about whether one should write fiction about the Holocaust and, if so, who has the right to do so. During today's session, students explored the question more deeply after having watched a kind of "comedy" about the Holocaust and then read interviews by Ozick, who chose to write fiction about the Shoah despite her misgivings, and by Yann Martel, a non-Jewish, non-European author, who argues that while non-fiction tells us what we need to know about the Holocaust, art helps usunderstand it.
Frisch and Ulpana students already have responses to this topic posted on the school wiki.
American History: Mrs. Betty Kaplan, Mr. Joshua Gotlieb, Mr. Peter Tamburro
American history teachers covered the controversial issue of whether both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the American Jewish Community did enough to help European Jewry during World War II. Although Roosevelt was once seen unequivocally as the Jews' savior, recent research has thrown that idea into question. Go to the Frisch wiki for a look at how much of the Jewish vote Roosevelt received during World War II.
Talmud: Rabbi Yakov Blau, Rabbi Asher Bush, Rabbi David Goldfischer, Rabbi Sheldon Morris
Responsa from the Holocaust are heartbreaking and yet inspiring. Students are shown the incredible level of devotion Jews had to observing Halakha and keeping their faith alive. With our sister school in Israel, we decided to focus on responsa that have to do with Kiddush Hashem, which fits well with issues students are dealing with in this year's study of Massechet Sanhedrin.
Hebrew Language: Morah Miriam Bar-Oz, Morah Ella Regev, Morah Dafna Zilberschmid, Morah Ronit Cole
Two weeks ago, The Ulpana students went to a museum, Shem Olam, that not only takes one through the experience of the Shoah from an historical angle, but also grapples with the theological questions the Shoah raises, such as how could God allow the Holocaust to occur and why do bad things happen to good people? The Hebrew Language department began this conversation at Frisch by discussing a poem called "Akeidat Yitzchak," by the Hebrew poet Itzik, who felt, as other Jews did, that God had allowed His children to be sacrificed, and had not replaced us, as He did with Yitzchak in the Torah, with a ram.
Jewish Philosophy: Mrs. Rachel Besser, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, Dr. Shira Weiss, Mrs. Shaindy Zudick
Students continue the discussion of theodicy in a session on Jewish philosophy, during which they discovered philosopher Viktor Frankl's and the Rav's responses to suffering: We cannot fully know why or how evil happens, but we can transform ourselves into better people and the world into a better place, by resolving not inflict suffering and working to end it.
The formal portion of the program concluded with a wrap-up session on the importance of free speech as exemplified in a film clip from the movie Skokie, about the neo-Nazis' desire to march in Illinois. Students will also see from the clip that one of the most important lessons of the Holocaust for Jews was that we should balance our respect for free speech with a clear denunciation of hate speech and anti-Semitic vitriol.
During the last two periods of the day, students are using the school wiki page created for the day and working with partners to create Power Points that reflects what they've learned from the integrated sessions.