by George J Elbaum
The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) staged an exhibit, Tour and Talk: Resilience, Holocaust, and the Architecture of Life, which asks the question: “How do we move forward from the past while vowing to never forget?” The architecture of The CJM is a testament to history and resilience: it is a celebration of life and strength designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, a child of Holocaust survivors, with deeply embedded Jewish symbolism and meaning. A first-hand testimony by a Holocaust survivor (me on this day) is at the heart of this 2 ½ hour Museum experience, which includes an exploration of the symbolism of The CJM’s architecture through the lens of resilience and artistic reflection.
This is the second year of CJM’s program of student tours, pairing these with talks by Holocaust survivors through partnering with the Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS). These talks offer the students a unique opportunity to connect art, architecture, and history, to humanize historical events and cultivate empathy, and to strengthen links between past and present. Today’s program included 56 10th grade students from Quarry Lane High School in Dublin, CA, who attended my presentation and then separated into 3 smaller groups for in-depth discussion led by Quarry Lane teachers Ekta Shah, Lance Miller and Ron Bialkowski. It was interesting, though not surprising, that only a few students asked questions during the Q & A at the end of my talk, but their questions flowed more freely when I joined each of the 3 smaller groups for photos immediately afterwards. Following the groups’ discussions on the talk, they were led by CJM’s Museum Educators on an exploration of the symbolism of the CJM architecture followed by a hands-on project related to memory.
The event was organized by Janine Okmin, CJM’s Associate Director of Education, and Cara Buchalter, Tour & Education Associate. Other CJM staff who attended were Kerry King, Chief Operating Officer; Lori Starr, Executive Director; Fraidy Aber, Director of Education & Civic Engagement; PJ Policarpio, Youth Programs Manager; Stacy Rackusin, Director of Development; Andrea Morgan, Director of Institutional Giving; and Joan Hammer, Museum Educator.
My presentation was arranged by JFCS’s Program Coordinator, Nikki Bambauer.