Jewish Mosaic Museum

This past year, the OJA initiated a School Partnership Program, bringing the Archives into grade 3 and 4 classrooms at Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School. Classroom visits were designed around the Ontario Ministry of Education 3rd and 4th grade curriculum guidelines highlighting themes of immigration, urban versus rural development, and city building. Students learned about the growth of the Jewish community from the early days in St. John’s Ward, Kensington Market in the 1930s and 40s, the Spadina Garment district, and the migration north along the Bathurst corridor in the 1950s. Students also learned about the smaller Jewish communities around the province—Kirkland Lake, Timmins, North Bay, Belleville—where Jews were often merchants and suppliers to the various industries in those parts of the province.

On May 27, 2013, Paul Penna DJDS presented Jewish Mosaic Museum, an event that grew out of the collaboration between the school and the OJA. Each student presented an object that expresses their Jewish identity. They contributed a range of artifacts, some traditional, some contemporary, with thoughtful explanations as to why they chose the object and what it means to them.

The event was very well attended by students with their parents and grandparents who enjoyed learning all the different ways the students expressed their Jewish identity. This Museum event and the various artifacts that the students exhibited were documented by the OJA and will be preserved to celebrate the multiplicity of the Jewish experience. The OJA is thrilled to collaborate with Paul Penna DJDS and to have the opportunity to strengthen “the child’s voice” in our collection.

Memorable quotes from the students’ descriptions of their artifacts:

"…I may be the only one without an artifact. This is because I don’t feel Jewish when I look at something or touch it. I feel Jewish when I have a conversation about philosophical views on Judiasm…for these reasons, I have decided to use a picture of me having a conversation about Judaism as my “artifact.” "

--Noah, Middle School

"The artifact that expresses my Jewish identity is my school, Paul Penna DJDS. I came here six years ago, and I have come every school-day. My school connects me to being Jewish because we do Hebrew and Jewish learning here…"

--Noah, Grade 5

"Challa is the artifact I chose for many reasons. Challa is a Jewish food that I eat every week. I eat it on Friday night. Whenever dinner at my grandfather’s apartment, he says the blessing, but when dinner is at my house I say the blessing and cut the Challah. My mom also makes sure I don’t eat too much, but I do anyway. On average, I eat 3 to 5 pieces."

--Ezra, Grade 5

"My artifact is the Camp Shomria 2012 T-shirt. I got it last summer at camp. I chose ths T-shirt because it makes me feel connected to my camp, which is Jewish. I wear the shirt whenever I have the chance. When I wear it, I think of last summer, when I had so much fun. Almost all of my family has gone to this camp…"

--Adi, Grade 4

"This is my challah book. On Friday morning me and my mom make Challah together. Inside the book it tells you what you need and how to make Challah. My mom made this book for me so I could walwsy remember that time."

--Ezra, Grade 3

"The artifact I chose is a picture of my grandparents. I have Shabbat at my grandparents house every week. I love Shabbat because I get to light the candles. I chose a picture of my grandparents because I love them."

--Joseph, Grade 2

"The Jewish artifact is a Kippah. It reminds me of being Jewish because my dad wore it on his wedding and he made me Jewish. I got it from my dad. I share it with my dad. You wear it on Shabbat and wear it at a wedding."

--Isaiah, Grade 1

"My artifact is me dressed up as a kibbutz pioneer. It makes me happy."

--Maya, Senior Kindergarten