Activity: Memories, Memories

The aim of this activity is to examine the question of memory as a component of a common national identity.

  • Ask each person in the group to write down the five most important events - for them - in history. Don’t give any other instruction.
  • Divide the students into pairs or small groups. Let them share their choices and explain why they have chosen those particular events.
  • Now bring the class back together and list all - or most - of the events they have chosen on the board. Divide them into three different columns: one relates to the local history of the country in which they live; the second relates to ‘universal’ history not connected with the country in which they live, and the third relates to events that are seen as part of Jewish history.
  • Compare the three lists. How many items (if any) are there in each category? What can you learn about the collective memory of the class from the relative length of the lists and from the character of the lists? How ‘Jewish’ is the entire list? If Jews in many different classes all over the world were to do the same exercise and to come up with the same proportions as this class has come up with, what would that say about the state of the Jewish people’s collective memory? How ‘Jewish’ would the collective memory of the Jewish people be in that case? Ask the class whether they think their list would be typical of Jews in their country? If it is not typical, what does that say about the state of Jewish collective memory, given their knowledge of the Jews in their own country?
  • Discuss whether, in their opinion, a strong Jewish collective memory is important. Why? Why not?
  • Each individual student should now formulate their personal stand on the importance of a strong collective memory for the Jews of their country and for world Jewry generally. They should also list events in Jewish history that they think that Jews all over the world should remember. They can choose as few as no events, or as many as ten.
  • In pairs or small groups, let them share the events that they have chosen and explain their choices to each other.
  • List on the board of all these events, noting the number of ‘votes’ that they give each event. Single out the top three or four events. Why are these considered so important? If all Jews in the world were conscious of the importance of these ‘top’ events, what would the state of Jewish memory be? Do any of the class think that there are other events that absolutely must be in the top list with regard to our entire people? Why?
  • In conclusion, offer all or part of the above Buber piece. What is he trying to say? Why does he consider memory so important? Where do the individuals of the group feel that they stand in terms of the psychological and emotional process that Buber describes?



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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0