Teaching the Holocaust Through Museum Visits: Are Our Students Getting the Full History?
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Across the United States of America, many states mandate teaching the Holocaust. Additionally, many Jewish schools, though not required by law, choose to teach the Holocaust. Formal curricular instruction on Holocaust education is often followed by an educational visit to a Holocaust museum in the area. This paper will focus on the three museums connected to the Jewish educational community in the New York metropolitan area: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in Brooklyn, NY, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York, NY. Administrators of Jewish schools often decide about the museums they will visit based on geographical considerations, including proximity to the school. Many Modern-Orthodox Jewish day schools in the New York metropolitan area take their eighth graders on a graduation trip to the nation’s capital in Washington D.C., to see historical landmarks. While there, they also visit the USHMM. Using data from interviews with senior members of each museum’s staff and personal visits to each site, this study examines how each museum defines the Holocaust and tells the narrative of the Holocaust. This study examines how each exhibit was designed, including the artifacts displayed, and which aspects of the Holocaust are emphasized. Suggestions about the importance of examining the educational philosophy and underlying messages that each museum teaches are recommended for Modern-Orthodox Jewish day school administrators.
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