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Memory and History
Introduction Learning Activities Materials Bookmarks Standards
Learning Activities
Defining the Terms, Setting the Stage
Possessing and Re-Possessing Life Stories
What Happens When a People's Way of Life is Stripped Away?
What Memories to Carry Forward ?
Two Young Jewish refugees sit outside a New York City reception home with their luggage shortly after their arrival in the United States  (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives)
Learning Activity 4: What Memories Do We Carry Forward and What Do We Leave Behind?

Introductory Activity:
Ask students to think about when their ancestors first came to America. What did they have to leave behind, literally and figuratively? Have students provide specific examples. If students do not know the circumstances of their ancestors' immigration, it might be interesting for them to ponder why their families didn't share these stories in great detail. What were their ancestors' lives like? What are the possible reasons they moved to America?

From Memory to History
1. Distribute the handout From Memory to History (PDF) to the class. Remind students that they have talked about individuals carrying forward or leaving behind certain experiences and/or memories. Explain that the same can be said for the story of a people or of humanity as a whole. Ask students, as they listen to the Heritage Bookmark Interview with Rabbi Irwin Kula, to reflect on the first two questions on the handout about learning history (below). According to Rabbi Kula, we ultimately need to choose from the vast detail of history what we will carry with us and what we "say goodbye to."
  • What is the source of your historical information?
  • How is it decided what information is left in and what's omitted? Who decides?
2. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to share their answers with each other. Then, ask them to answer the third question, below, as a class.
    If you were forced to leave this country tomorrow with one small suitcase, what would you bring with you and why?
3. Have students discuss and write responses to the handout's fourth and fifth questions:
  • Think about your role as the transmitter of your memories, culture, and heritage to your future children. Do you think your choices would change? Why or why not?
  • Your class has been charged with creating a time capsule that will convey your culture to the inhabitants of this area in 100 years. What would you include and why?
Extension Activity: Ask your students to create a time capsule.


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