Each and every community is special, and has its own unique features. If you are a professional Jewish educator, chances are that you have worked in several different communities, and have experienced those characteristics that make those communities special. Our students, however, are not always aware of this. One Jewish school may seem like any Hebrew school, and they may even imagine that the Jews of London are basically the same people as the Jews of New York. On the other-hand, they may feel that the differences are so vast that they cannot even imagine what it may be like to be a part of those different communities, and they have no idea that there are shared commonalities. How do you go about teaching students when it comes to other communities? Is it important to your classroom, or is it something that you don’t even touch upon?
Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, has recently launched a new exhibition focusing on Jewish communities across the world. Presented both as a mosaic exhibition at the museum and an online database, Com.Unity allows users to upload information about their own community and share it with others around the world. Besides being an exciting initiative that will honor our differences while celebrating a global community, Com.Unity offers unique opportunities for us as Jewish educators.
Celebrating Our Own Community
Com.Unity asks important questions while inviting us to paint a picture of our community. While it is not recommended that you make a community page on Com.Unity without at least speaking with school administrators, there is an excellent opportunity for you to engender pride and increased connection among your students. Look through the questions that Com.Unity asks, pick a few of them and have your students discuss them. Use those questions as a starting off point for further discussion.
Beit Hatfutsot’s exhibition can be the jumping off point for a wide range of lessons on community for your students. Perhaps you could also have your students create their own mosaics, or you could have them interview staff and community members. What other ways could you use this exhibit to create a stronger connection between students and their community?
Connecting with the Global Community
Perhaps even more exciting than the opportunity for our students to learn about their own community is Com.Unity’s ability to be used as a tool for teaching about the diversity of the Jewish world. With communities around the world creating their own profile on Com.Unity, students are able to visit the exhibit virtually and learn about Jewish life from all over. There are so many ways to utilize the exhibit for learning. Students can be assigned a specific community or hashtag to learn about, or look into several communities in a specific country, painting a picture of life in that area.
What are your thoughts on this new exhibit? How would you go about using Com.Unity? Do you have other great resources that you find useful in teaching about the diversity of the Jewish people? We would love to hear from you in the comments.