Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall Programming at the JMM!

A blogpost by education director Ilene Dackman-Alon.

In September, the work week was so sketchy with short work weeks due to the fall Jewish holidays. When I arrived at work the other day, I had a feeling similar to when I was young during the first week of school. The first week of school was always so exciting filled with new friends, new opportunities and new beginnings. I guess I am feeling this way as I am excited about the JMM’s upcoming program calendar filled with something for everyone both young and old.

On Friday, 8 October, we began this season’s Tot Shabbat programs. Tot Shabbat programs are geared for downtown families with very young children. Young children, along with their parents, caregivers and grandparents were actively engaged in songs, stories and a challah snack all in connection with the Sabbath. This program is co-sponsored by the JMM and the JCC’s Beyond the Borders", a program which is funded by The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education. Later in October, the Druid Hill Park celebrated its 150th year and the JMM sponsored bus trips to the park - Druid Hill Park- Nostalgia and Beyond. Barry Kessler, former JMM curator will give a behind the scenes tour of Druid Hill Park as it is and as it was. Barry will speak about how the park served the Jewish community from the 1920’s until 1960 and what those memories means to the Jewish collective conscience; as well as talk about the new efforts to bring the park back to its former glory.

In connection wit the JMM’s newest exhibition, A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People, the JMM is proud to present programming that highlight interfaith dialog and study. This year’s Sadie B. Feldman Family Lecture featured Father John Pawlikowski, professor of ethics and the director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies program at the Catholic Theological Union. Fr. Pawlikowski delivered a lecture in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the historic declaration on the relationship of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions.

I am also eager and anxious to continue with weekly my visits to Patterson High School, a large Baltimore City Public School and continue to work on the JMM’s latest educational initiative, Student Immigration Stories. The SIS program is just one of the Museum’s many education programs and this one fulfills our mission – to teach about Baltimore’s history as a haven for immigrants and refugees in the past and present. The JMM has developed a wonderful relationship with this school and we are working specifically with Ms. Sally Franklin’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class and Jennifer Zunikoff, a professional storyteller in the area. This particular initiative looks at contemporary immigration to Baltimore.

The students participating in the project are learning how to craft their personal immigration stories with the help of the storyteller. The power of the first-person narrative makes this program a compelling educational experience. With the help of facilitated questions, and the use of visualization and guided imagery, these techniques help the students formulate their personal stories as well as provide opportunities for the students to learn from their classmates.

The goal of the Student Immigration Stories program is to address the needs in schools whose student populations are rapidly diversifying due to an influx of immigrants from different countries. Many school administrators describe a general atmosphere of unease at schools where there is a large immigrant population and where the student body at large demonstrates a lack of tolerance or willingness to accept students from foreign countries. It is the hope this program will serve as a forum for students to gain understanding and acceptance of their fellow students.

The weekly visits are very powerful and it is a humbling experience to listen to the students describe their lives in their native countries. During our last session, Jennifer (the storyteller), asked the students these questions. “If you could bring one thing from your native country to Baltimore- what would it be? And if you could bring one thing from Baltimore back home to your native country what would it be? The students’ answers were amazing. Some of the students from Nepal said that they wanted to bring the lushness of the jungle and the majestic Mt. Everest to Baltimore. Some of the students from Central America said that they would bring our law enforcement system, Patterson High School along with their beloved teacher, Ms. Franklin back to their native countries of El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

The power of the first-person narrative makes this an especially compelling educational experience. I listen to these students in the class and I am blown away by the courage and strength of the students to share their intimate stories. Their stories allow me to be transported to different countries and places all over the world. Their personal stories allow me to find connections and a common ground with each of the students. It is the hope that the students in the schools will also find common ground and connections with these students who share their stories of immigration.

It’s going to be an exciting programming season at the JMM- LET THE PROGRAMS BEGIN!

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