May 29, 2007

High School Apprentice Graduation

2007 MJH High School Apprentices

This week, we held the graduation ceremony for our High School Apprentices -- one of my favorite events on the Museum's calendar. Why? Well, first, the kids are simply great -- inquisitive, eager, smart, grateful for the experience. Second, they bring their teachers and their families to share in their achievement. And, third, the whole program serves to energize my colleagues and me and helps to remind us of what important work we all do.

Here are the facts about the program: The High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP) offers 15 New York City public high school students a program of work and study, during which they learn about Jewish heritage, the Holocaust, and what goes on "behind-the-scenes" at a museum. From February through May, Apprentices participate in after-school seminars twice a month, and from July through mid-August, Apprentices have full-time paid positions at the Museum. Through a close mentoring relationship with Museum staff, the 15 Apprentices explore the curatorial, educational, administrative, and operational sides of the Museum. The summer apprenticeship also includes film screenings, field trips, and leading tours for summer youth groups.

Each year, the kids nominate one of their colleagues to deliver some remarks on behalf of the class. This year Natalia Piland was chosen. Here is a photograph of Natalia and some excerpts from her speech, which was delivered with poise and warm feeling:

I have to say that these last four months have been incredibly delightful in every way. In such a short span of time, we’ve gotten to know each other and to learn how to work together in a way that a lot of people don’t manage after years of working together. Through the different things we’ve done in this program, such as bringing in our own artifacts and analyzing them, we’ve learned about each other’s heritage and our own—from Jewish to Mexican to Indian to yet other ethnicities from all over the world—at the same time as learning about how one can use these objects to tell a story.

During this time period, we were fortunate enough to hear a Holocaust Survivor, Sol Rosenkranz, give us his account of this time period, which was a new experience for many of us. It is quite a different thing to hear about history from a textbook than from someone who actually went through it- his testimony inspired many of us to ask fundamental questions about humanity and its capabilities and it will not be easily forgotten....

I think the thing that we have learnt from this program that is the most special is the concept of tikkun olam, or repair of the world. We have all come to interpret it in our own ways. To me, this phrase has become what I think about when I see small things around my school. When people say things without thinking about how it impacts those around them, it isn’t something that one can just ignore. I think of tikkun olam, and know that you can’t let everyone just defend themselves. Sometimes you have to step in and make sure people know that words have power, and they have to be used carefully. I think we can all agree that to try to repair the world, we have to accept each other for who we are, and to learn from each other. We have to protect each other from cruelty, and make sure that something like the Holocaust never happens again.

High School Apprentice Giving Tour

(Photos by Melanie Einzig)

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