Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Biology: Life in the Warsaw Ghetto

This week, biology fell out on Yom HaShoa. I decided that it would be appropriate if we discussed some issues that related both to science and to the Holocaust. We looked at some data on the typical diet of a resident of the ghetto and compared these numbers to the U.S. recommended daily allowance for proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Then we looked at labels on different food packages to prepare a plate of food that would consist of the daily allotment for a resident of the Ghetto. Afterward we compared the population density of Raanana to that of the Warsaw Ghetto. Hopefully these two exercises helped give the kids another perspective on the suffering endured by the Jews living in the Warsaw Ghetto.

We concluded with a bit of social science: a discussion on stereotypes. The kids were given a list of sentences to complete such as, "All sephardim are...." "All Arabs are.." "All haredim are ..." The kids were given free reign to express whatever stereotypes came to mind. We put everyone's ideas on the board, and then I gave them one last sentence to complete: "All Jews are..." I suggested some of the negative stereotypes of Jews we unfortunately know too well, and as my proof gave a quick summary of the whole Madoff scandal. Many of the kids were upset, pointing out how unfair it is to judge a whole people based on the actions of one person. From there we worked backwards, reexamining many of the other stereotypes we had discussed. We left chug on a hopeful note, observing that while it is natural to group and classify people based on our experiences and knowledge, both of these things may be limited and therefore skewed. Given our unfortunate history of playing the role of the scapegoat, it is crucial for us to constantly be on our guard against harming others through negative stereotypes and discrimination.

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