By Dr. Paul Radensky, Senior Director for Education
The Interfaith Living Museum brings Muslim and Jewish fifth graders together to explore culture, cultivate dialogue, defeat prejudice, and nurture friendship.
Typically, the program begins with the students meeting at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust to learn how museums are structured and how artifacts can convey heritage – specifically Jewish heritage. At the second session, the students meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and study Muslim artifacts. For another session, the students visit a mosque and synagogue and meet with a rabbi and an imam to learn more about Islam and Judaism.
Subsequently, the students visit each other’s schools, present artifacts from their families to each other, and arrange the artifacts into galleries. The students write descriptions of their artifacts and Museum staff take photos to be used for the exhibition catalog. We also hold a “Social Day” for all the students, during which they enjoy non-instructional fun activities together.
The Interfaith Living Museum culminates with a gala exhibition of the students’ work and artifacts in the Museum. A student representative from each school speaks about the personal significance of taking part in the program. Parents, siblings and other visitors circulate throughout the exhibit, with the student curators presenting their artifacts.
Due to the temporary closure of the Museum and the schools because of COVID-19, we were not able to carry out the Interfaith Living Museum as fully as we would like. Nevertheless, the students learned new means of communicating with each other. Using a shared blog, the students shared their experiences, including how Passover and Ramadan were different this year. Fortunately, since the students met in January and February, much of the work of the catalog was completed before New York State went into quarantine. We are pleased to offer this catalog as a celebration of the students’ work together.