The Council for Holocaust Education (CHE) and The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art (SMMJA) recently sponsored an educational project centered on Joanne Caras’ cookbook, Miracles and Meals, which features a collection of Holocaust survivor recipes and their stories of survival. The CHE and SMMJA often pair with local classrooms to provide hands-on and experiential learning opportunities related to the Holocaust for Tulsa-area students, and this cookbook provided an exciting connection for students study-ing the Shoah.
Each year, teacher Renata Sears of Disney Elementary School in Tulsa introduces her fifth-grade students to the study of the Holocaust through literature for young readers and age-appropriate activities. Her goal is always to connect students on a personal level with those who endured the Holocaust, so she divided her 28 students into seven groups and assigned them a survivor to research and his or her recipe from the cookbook to make. In the classroom, the students used the internet and the cookbook itself to find out more about the survivor and their journey to safety.
On December 12, the students took a field trip to the Jewish Federation of Tulsa and cooked a recipe from their assigned survivor and shared their dish with their classmates. Members of the CHE and parent volunteers assisted the students in recipe creation. Featured recipes included Passover brownies, apple cake, blueberry muffins, homemade applesauce, and pea salad. Tulsa World was present to interview the teacher and students about their experience. After lunch and hearing from Holocaust survivor Bea Newman, students toured the Herman and Kate Kaiser Holocaust Exhibit at The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art and participated in the Kinderstone art project.
Upon returning to the classroom, students created presentations which detailed their learning: pertinent aspects of the survivor’s life pre-war, during war, and post-war, as well as the recipe they created and what they learned from this hands-on project. One student said, “We learned from our survivor’s story that kindness and acceptance are important, so we don’t make the same mistakes that were made in the past.” The student projects were on display on January 15 at Congregation B’nai Emunah’s Sisterhood event featuring Joanne Caras.
Through projects like this, the Council for Holocaust Education seeks to ensure the Holocaust is not only viewed as an important historical event, but also connects personally to students with the enduring lessons of the dangers of hatred and bigotry and the importance of standing up for what is moral and just, reminding all of us that what we do matters. ■