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In this challenging time, many parents and guardians are looking online for meaningful activities for their children that don’t require too much prep or too many materials. Each weekday on this blog, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will post an activity geared to a range of ages that guide children how to explore heritage, history, and learning through artifacts.

Note to parents/guardians: This activity is appropriate for ages 10 and up. It deals with the experiences of children during the Holocaust

This activity builds on the skills of making observations and using the observations to draw inferences. Our educational approach is grounded in the idea that every object tells a story, and we encourage students to observe and infer to try to determine what story each object is telling.

View the artifact here.

Have your student first record objective observations (what they can see, without making any guesses or inferences). Encourage them to deepen their observations and record things they may not have noticed upon first viewing the artifact.

Next, ask students to make inferences: what do you think this object was? Who might it have belonged to? Why do you think it looks unfinished? What story is it telling?

After discussing their inferences, asking for them to support their answers with evidence from their observations and prior knowledge, discuss the story behind this artifact.

Potholder Loom of Yocheved Farber
Potholder Loom of Yocheved Farber

This small toy potholder loom belonged to Yocheved Farber (born 1938), the daughter of Kalman Farber, a rabbinical student, and his wife, Zipporah. Yocheved and her parents lived in Vilna, Lithuania. After the Nazis occupied Vilna in June 1941, the Farber family had to move into the Vilna ghetto, when Yocheved was only three years old. During World War II, the Nazis created ghettos throughout occupied Europe where Jews were forced to live separated from everyone else. Thousands of Jews died in the ghettos from starvation, disease, and forced labor.

Jews couldn’t bring many possessions with them into the ghettos, but many parents brought toys like this one with them. Why do you think they did this? Many parents wanted to keep life as normal as possible for their children. Toys helped provide a distraction for young children.

Unfortunately, Yocheved did not survive the Holocaust. Her parents did survive, however, and her potholder loom helps us remember her and the other children who did not survive.

What remaining questions do you have about this artifact? Please email education@mjhnyc.org so that we may answer them and feature them on the Museum blog.