Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Beginning: Washington

Upon arrival at Union Station in Washington, D.C., I met up with Douglas from North Carolina. We were so thrilled to see each other and begin our journey! Dougie "Fresh" and I traveled to the L'Enfante Hotel via a cab (thankfully the cabbie did not hit any pedestrians). Our excitement for our trip grew exponentially as we entered the hotel, found out our rooms were not ready, and quickly discovered that several other participants were waiting in the lobby. We shared names and stories with one another, and it was already very clear what amazing group of people we were going to spend the next three weeks with.

After chatting in the hotel with more arriving participants, it was time to head to the USHMM museum for our orientation meeting. The 27 participants introduced ourselves as did our leaders Stephen Feinberg and Elaine Culbertson. Stephen and Elaine are accomplished teachers and Holocaust educators who have been affiliated with USHMM for decades. They have been running this trip for many years and have prepared for us an extensive schedule for the next three weeks. With their orientation, we quickly knew that Stephen and Elaine run a tight ship, but have created a truly wonderful itinerary for us!

For dinner, we ate at the hotel and had the honor of listening to Holocaust survivor, Henry Greenbaum. Henry told his story, and we were enthralled by his journey of survival. As just an example, Henry was shot in the head while trying to escape a concentration camp with his sister. Thankfully the bullet grazed him and his cousin tended to his wound, which kept him out Nazi clutches as they searched for those who attempted escape. Henry's story was compelling and beautifully told.

Even though it was such a long day, a few of us decided to enjoy a few adult beverages after dinner. We had a wonderful time chatting and getting to know each other better! Many of us slept quite well on that first night!

On Monday morning, we celebrated the fourth of July at the USHMM. On our way to the museum, we saw all of the preparations for the 4th around the Mall. Security was extra tight at the museum, so after some confusion, we entered the museum and began our first full day. In the morning we discussed artifacts and their importance in teaching about historical events--particularly the Holocaust. We were instructed to find a few artifacts per floor of the permanent exhibit that we could utilize in our classrooms. This assignment was really helpful for me since I've been to the USHMM at least a dozen times. With this direction, I looked at the objects in a different lens than usual.

As we made our way through the museum, I found a number of useful artifacts. Many of them are ones we read about or already look at in Holocaust and Human Behavior, but thinking about them differently encouraged me to think about structuring units in new ways. When we were done with the permanent exhibit, we stopped briefly for lunch, and returned to go through the State of Deception propaganda exhibit as well as Daniel's Story. In the afternoon, the group met to discuss our exploration of the museum and discuss the artifacts we found. After an interesting and intellectually stimulating conversation, we headed back to L'Enfante Hotel to prepare for dinner. At dinner we were again fortunate enough to have survivors speak to us. This time it was Roman Kent and his wife who were gracious enough to share their stories with us. Both of them had amazing stories, and according to Roman, his wife very rarely speaks about her story so we considered ourselves a privileged group.

After dinner, we ventured out into DC to explore places to watch their firework display. Dougie and I decided to stay near the hotel and walked just down the street to watch. We had a nice view of the Washington monument and saw the fireworks pretty well from our vantage point. It was very cool to be in DC for the nation's birthday!

Next up is our long day as we travel from Washington, DC to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt, Germany. Hopefully we all get their safely with our luggage!

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