Growing up in a predominantly Jewish suburb of Washington, D.C., discussions of the Holocaust permeated many aspects of my life. The Shoah was definitely a major touchpoint of my formal religious education; in Hebrew school, I learned of Hitler's atrocities not only from textbooks and lectures, but also from interactions with the survivors who regularly visited classes to share their painful, personal stories. Elie Wiesel and Anne Frank were heroes in our house; Night and Frank's diary were prominently displayed on both my parents' and grandparent's bookshelves. And even on the most banal of home front issues, Nazi war crimes weighed heavy. To this day, my father has refused to buy either a German made car or dishwasher.
My choice of childhood reading was also influenced by a hatred of Hitler. A favorite book in fifth grade was Judy Blame's classic, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself . And while I didn't, as did the book's title character, grow up fearing Nazi war criminals could be lurking around every corner, I sympathized with Sally's borderline obsession with exposing Mr. Zagorsky's supposed homicidal past.
But as huge a shadow as the Holocaust cast over my youth, I've struggled with the best ways to introduce the incredibly difficult theme to my own children. I want them to know about, honor and to remember the six million victims, but I haven't wanted them to be feel scared, or worse yet, scarred. Shock and fear no longer seem like the best teaching tools for ensuring, the idea of "never again."
And while I am certainly no expert when it comes to the best way to talk with kids about the holocaust, I do know the arts have definitely been a powerful part of helping me to comprehend the tragedy. I am pretty sure I was still in elementary school the first time I saw the 1959 Anne Frank film starring Millie Perkins. In eighth grade we viewed the deeply disturbing Night and Fog, an early Holocaust documentary, as a part of a religious school retreat. And even as an adult, movies like Sophie's Choice and Schindler's List have left their indelible impressions.
So it was with great hope that I took my 10-year-old daughter to the Children's Theater of Madison's production of And Then They Came For Me, this past weekend at the Overture Center. I was looking to the theater to serve as an entry point from which to launch an age-appropriate discussion on one of the darkest events of the 20th century.
The production, a multimedia work by playwright James Still, interweaves documentary-style interviews with survivors Ed Silverberg (aka Helmuth, or "Hello") and Eva Geiringer Schloss with live actors recreating scenes from their lives under Nazi occupation in Europe. Both Hello and Eva were friends of Anne Frank in Holland, and the narrative allows us to bear witness to such events as Hello's daring escape from the Nazis and subsequent border crossing to Belgium. And we watch as two actresses--portraying 15-year-old Eva and her mother--reenact the horrifying and dehumanizing process of being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in May of 1944. The play, which runs through this weekend, is moving and thought provoking, forcing members of the audience, many as young as my daughter, to grapple with the question of how this could have happened.
That question is perhaps best answered by the quote that inspired the title of the play. The words, written by German clergyman Martin Niemoller and included in the program, have haunted me from my youth. They are the same words that hung on the bulletin board of my father's studio for as long as I can remember.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
I am thankful this play gave me the ideal opportunity to begin the Holocaust dialogue with my daughter. Because no matter how hard things may be to talk about, keeping silent is never the answer.comments powered by Disqus
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.