by Grace B. and Jenn G., co-chairs of the Community Gathering Committee
The Community Gathering Committee is pleased to report the Jewish Museum visits were a success. Located just down the street from St Bernard’s School, the Jewish Museum sits at the intersection of art and Jewish culture by educating through themes that are relevant to the shared human experience.
Four tours allowedover fiftymembers of the St. Bernard's community to visit the Jewish Museum, many for the first time. By focusing on age-appropriate approaches, the talented educators expertly engaged those in attendance through private guided tours.
Younger groups from kindergarten through Grade V visited on February 7 and 21 and were engaged in discussions about how selected pieces depict themes of community, migration, and artistic expression. One piece of interest was Kehinde Wiley’s Alios Itzhak, a portrait of a young man of Ethiopian origin on a vibrantly colored background of cut-out nineteenth-century Ukrainian mizrah, which is in the collection as well. The larger than life painting of a person of color on a vibrant background further identifies the museum’s role in celebrating a shared human experience. The guide gave the St Bernard’s group packages of various color backgrounds on which to place a smaller picture of Alios Itzhak, demonstrating how the different colors affected their perception of the portrait. The boys were thoroughly engaged in the discussion that followed.
Grades VI-IX visited on February 9 and February 23 and examined several works of art in the museum’s collection as primary sources to learn more about the historical and artistic context of engagement on the shared human experiences of immigration, assimilation, refugee stories, and social justice. A discussion of Michael David’s Warsaw taught the attendees about Jewish life in pre-war occupied Europe and also taught the meaning of the yellow Star of David – used as a Jewish identifying badge, a symbol of pride turned into an association with fear. Boys were asked to write down ten words evoked by the artwork and then to create poetry with those words. The poems that were shared were very insightful into what the boys learned about the piece. Other pieces led to in-depth discussions about artistic responses to historical events and movements; intolerance; representations of gender, identity, and race; and social conventions and customs. Discussions around Polish born painter Maurycy Minkowski’s work of people migrating and George Segal’s Abraham and Isaac gave us plenty to think about. Our guide also introduced the work of American activist Daniel Joseph Martinez’s Adopt a Refugee - an idea to create lightweight thermal blankets that can be given to anyone in need, be they a refugee or a homeless person. Each boy was given a small package with a blanket to give to someone in need. We left the museum with a richer understanding of its place in helping visitors understand Jewish culture, history, and the human condition in general.
The Community Gathering Committee seeks to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the diverse backgrounds and cultures within the St. Bernard’s community and was happy to be able to underwrite this program with the support of the Parents Association. The committee works closely with the school’s Diversity Coordinator, Nadine Thomas, to organize events and discussions on topics pertaining to diversity and inclusion as they relate to the boys’ experiences.