Fifth-graders make history ‘come alive’
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Fifth-graders make history ‘come alive’

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Ilana Lupkin shows woodworking tools to fourth-grader Nathaniel Epstein-Toney that were used by Nathan Lupkin in Poland to make a table that he gave to Ilana’s great-grandparents as a wedding gift. The tools and table have been in the Lupkin family ever since.

NEW MILFORD ““ Fifth-graders at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County made history come alive as they presented family artifacts at the school’s fifth annual Jewish Heritage Fair, held Feb. 5-6.

Using curatorial techniques learned in November at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, New York City, on the classification and display of artifacts, students worked with teachers over a period of several months to prepare the exhibit of more than 60 items.

“I’m very proud of this project,” said Beryl Bresgi, head librarian, who coordinated the effort together with fifth-grade teachers Joanne Miller and Joan Hofman, integrating it into the school’s Judaic Studies curriculum.

“It creates a wonderful connection between generations,” she said, pointing out that the exhibit does not include Holocaust artifacts, since the students have not yet learned about the Shoah.

“It’s a wonderful experience for parents,” said Miller. “They feel we should ‘take the show on the road.’ Every year we see something different – great artifacts and their amazing stories.”

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Michaela Rosen, with her parents Robert and Dr. Dina Rosen, and the Singer Sewing Machine – which has been electrified – that belonged to Michaela’s grandmother, Arlene Kofkin Bloom. PHOTOS BY KEN HILFMAN

Hofman noted that “it opens a dialogue between students and grandparents, and, in some cases, great-grandparents. Very often, it’s the first time the students have heard the special stories that accompany the artifacts.”

“Many grandparents are reluctant to tell the stories until they get a clue from their grandchild to do so,” she said. “It starts this dialogue between them, and that’s the most beautiful thing. It is now the responsibility of the students to bring the stories to the next generation.”

Miller posed for a photo with student Sophia Cohen, whose personal artifact was a newspaper clipping of August 7, 1968, when members of her family laid the first beams of the World Trade Center.

Hofman stood with Ethan Silberstein, who brought a small piece of parchment from Germany, c.1100-1600, in a plastic box. The parchment was given to Ethan’s great-grandfather, Yechezkel Krakinowsky, in 1944 by a dying Jew, when they were both imprisoned in Dachau Concentration Camp. Krakinowsky was liberated in 1945 and went to live in Israel. The “kamea,” the Hebrew words on the amulet, or charm, is “loosely translated as, ‘May you live in awe of God your entire life,'” said Ethan. “My zadie, Moshe Krakinowsky, did not know about the existence of this kamea until 1964.” The plastic box is now kept in a safe deposit vault.

Ruth Gafni, head of school, welcomed parents on the opening night of the exhibit. She later told The Jewish Standard, “This is one of my favorite nights, because it is what a Jewish day school is all about. The Heritage Fair tells the story of Jewish children coming from Jewish families and maintaining their Jewish identity [for] the Jewish future.”

Said Gafni, “We have families from all over the world, and we’ve heard many moving, inspiring, and touching stories about their lives. With ‘Project Heritage’ we inspire the students to learn about these family stories. One of the grandparents said to me tonight, ‘If my father knew [his] great-grandson would talk about him with such passion, he would have known his life had not been wasted.'”

Students wrote identification and background material for each artifact. The exhibit was accompanied by a catalogue including photographs separated into the categories of history, immigration, family life, and holidays.

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