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VHS Students Experience Museum of Jewish Heritage

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VHS Students Experience Museum of Jewish Heritage

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In earl December, VHS freshmen, juniors, and some seniors were given the opportunity to travel to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, NYC, to learn about the history of Jewish culture and about the Holocaust.  The trips were organized by history teacher Jessica Schram.

The two trips took place on December 3 and 7, with juniors and seniors attending on the Monday and freshmen on the Friday.  Ms. Schram explained that the invitation was extended to these students because the freshmen are learning about the Holocaust on a global scale in their Modern World History classes, Juniors are learning about the United States involvement in WWII and the Holocaust in their United States History II classes, and many seniors are learning about the evolution of the Holocaust and its role in history in Ms. Schram’s Holocaust and Genocide course.

The trip to the museum was no one-day affair:  Ms. Schram explained that a week prior to the trip, the students of Modern World History, US History II, and Holocaust and Genocide classes were given the opportunity to meet with four college interns who took a trip to VHS to refresh the students on what the Holocaust was and how the Museum of Jewish Heritage serves as a living memorial to the survivors and to those who lost their lives in the tragic events.

The actual visit to the museum was enlightening and humbling. Upon arriving to the museum, the students were split into groups of 10 and were given guided tours of the Museum’s core exhibit either by one of the four interns or by one of the Museum’s volunteers, some of whom are Holocaust survivors themselves.   

After the tour of the main exhibit, students were given the incredible opportunity to experience the Dimensions in Testimony exhibit which uses AI technology to allow visitors to have a “conversation” with Pinchas Gutter, who was a child who survived six concentration camps. The advanced, quick scanning, technology allows you to feel like Pinchas is really there answering your questions while you ask them. Ms. Schram was very impressed with the technology and says it “will be amazing to have once we unfortunately lose our survivors.”

Overall, Ms. Schram was thrilled by the success of this huge undertaking that she feels had great impact on the students. She explained that she was incredibly happy to see the students so engaged in what was happening and even had countless students approach her after the trip to tell her about how meaningful and impactful the trip had been.

Ms. Schram hoped that this trip would allow the students to understand truly how horrific the events had been and how crucial it is we never allow it to happen again and explains that “There is really only so much that we can offer to students through discussions, movies, readings, even showing testimony in the classroom. For an event as important as the Holocaust, which sadly has so many relevant echoes today, it is essential for students to actually bear witness to the atrocities committed, and to also realize that choosing not be a bystander has so much power.”

Though the trip was not easy – totaling 330 students, 38 chaperones, and 8 buses in two days- Ms. Schram and the students alike were pleased with the outcome of the event and Ms. Schram says she would love to run the trip again.  She thinks that the message can be summed up by the Primo Levi quote, “It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”

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VHS Students Experience Museum of Jewish Heritage