ELIZABETH, NJ - Bruriah Girls High School American history teacher Joel Glazer explained the importance of museums to the group of Benedictine Academy students seated in front of him, "How does a museum affect you? Is it just something pretty to look at or are you going to do something about it?"
The museum in question is the one devoted to the Holocaust that was created by Bruriah's junior class. It chronicles the Holocaust's origins beginning with the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War 1 and imposed severe punishments against Germany. The museum takes visitors through the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Holocaust, and the establishment of modern Israel.
The museum, originally the brainchild of Glazer, is a well-established tradition at Bruriah. "It has taken on a life of its own," said Glazer, a 50-year teacher at the school. "It started with one bulletin board, then two and three. As it began to grow, it started to attract attention."
The project is designed and organized by the students. Seven, selected students manage the project, but all 90 members of the junior class contribute. "I created an environment where the students run the show," said Glazer.
Every year, the museum is dismantled and recreated by the next junior class, a process that has generated some friendly competition. "Each year, the sophomore class thinks they can do one better, and they do," said Glazer.
The museum project has expanded to include a 1.5 million pennies fund-raiser for children's charities in Israel. The figure 1.5 million represents the number of children murdered during the Holocaust. "An outgrowth of the museum, we want to promote a lifestyle with certain values. In this case, helping disadvantaged children in all stages of life," explained Glazer.
This year, the school took a step forward and invited the sophomore class from Benedictine Academy to visit. The Holocaust, said the museum's curator junior Ariel Ezra, "is important for our history as Jews and for the entire world to be aware of. We want to spread it."
It is a message well received. Jazmine Galang, a Benedictine Academy student, was impressed "at how dedicated the students were. How nice the girls were, and you could tell they were inspired by the past. How many people were affected. It opened my eyes."
That was the lesson Benedictine Academy history teacher Mike Lavaglio was hoping the visit would teach. "It gives them the opportunity to bridge what they learn in class to the real world in a concrete and tangible manner. Learning is not just an intellectual process, but a spiritual one. These presentations are a platform for them to interact with a different community and a different culture."