November 15, 2015 – Mitzvah 6/7

Today’s class is was an awesome example of what brings me back to CHJ each year.  Such involved discussion and connections!  The students created such and engaging and enriching experience for themselves, each other and me as well.

We spoke about the forming of ghettos, ghetto life and increased tactics used to identify the Jewish population, as a means for further persecution.  One of our group would ask a question, and a long conversation with all contributing would spin off from that starting point. For example, “Why didn’t they just pretend not to be Jewish?”  This led into a long and varied discussion about personal identity, how people are identified through their community, their schools, synagogue, and in addition their physical characteristics, including hair, eyes and style of dress. Also, this brought up people’s relationship to their G-d and how that is important to them, something that can override their desire for self-preservation.  We reviewed the story of Mordechai standing up to Hamen, refusing to bow down and worship someone other than his own G-d.
Other talking points and questions led us to speaking about America’s struggle for civil rights and the parallels to persecution throughout history.  Someone asked why the Jews, and another offered that throughout history the Jews have been victimized and persecuted, so it followed suit.  We discussed other groups that were persecuted under the Nazi regime, gypsies, those who were physically or mentally disabled, gay and lesbian people and how these groups as separate and different were easy to target, with the rise of the Aryan ideal.
Scapegoating was brought up again, as a means to create a sense of other and make the German population believe that this was a means for their lives to improve.  In addition, we spoke about fear tactics and how people were scared away from standing up for their friends and neighbors.
Really, I could go on and on.  Your students were involved in discussion for 60 minutes straight and going strong until we took a break and they began Hebrew with Laura.
NEXT WEEK: I would like the students to be able to discuss a Holocaust era book/play/movie that they have seen/read/heard.  If your student has not had that experience, perhaps you could choose one to watch with them.  (unless they are super fast readers, then they could choose to read something!)  I haven’t seen or read all of what is out and available, and this way the students can amass a list together of recommended reading/viewing, of literature and film about the time.  Some suggestions for books and film are Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars, Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Night, Book Thief, Maus (a personal favorite), Defiance, Life is Beautiful.  Please watch with your student, as subject matter is obviously disturbing.
See you all next Sunday!

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