Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sum Total of "Jewish Heritage" for the TDSB: The Holocaust

There are a plethora of identity group months listed on the Toronto District School Board calendar. Women's History Month, Islamic History Month, Aboriginal Education Month and many, many others jockey for space in the school year. One of the newest identity group celebrations--call it a Moishe-come-lately: Jewish Heritage Month. Now, it's true that it was officially declared by the Ontario government only last year, but if you think the TDSB is planning to do squat about it, think again. As the Jewish Tribune's Joanne Hill reports, the board is kicking that can down the road. And if it kicks it long and hard enough, maybe it can keep it out of sight for the time being:
TORONTO - When it comes to Jewish Heritage Month, the third time may be the charm for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). 
May was declared Jewish Heritage Month by the Ontario legislature in February 2012. This did not allow enough time to plan any classroom or school activities for May 2012, a TDSB spokesperson told the Jewish Tribune at the time. 
This year seemed more promising, with the TDSB’s website stating: “Within the Toronto District School Board, many schools will participate through activities, research, morning announcements and discussions about the Jewish culture, identity, history and heritage.” 
However, when asked by the Tribune about specific programs being run in specific schools this year, TDSB Spokesperson Sheri Schwartz-Maltz admitted there weren’t any.
“When you’ve got a big, broad-based system like this it takes some time for people to know which activities would be appropriate,” said Schwartz-Maltz. “So what they’ve done is, they’ve put together this working group of some teachers and some principals, so there will be Jewish Heritage Month activities” in the next school year. “But the focus still this year has been very much, as it has been in the past, for Holocaust remembrance
“It’s a big board with almost 600 schools and if you’re going to embrace, you have to do it in a right way. So, like I said, if you call me back next year and we still haven’t done anything, then you can be critical.” 
The working group is considering activities that may highlight Jewish practices such as keeping shabbat and the Jewish holidays, and the preparation of different types of food, she said, adding that “they have to make it work for a very large, diverse population.”
Best of luck with that, Sheri. Can't wait to see how you're going to, ahem, make it work for, say, the kids at the TDSB mosqueteria.

Update: May is Asian Heritage Month, too. The TDSB had lots of stuff planned for this identity group month, no doubt because TDSB schools have lots of Asians (but not so many Jews). As for Islamic History Month (in October),
The Toronto District School Board has also made IHMC welcome throughout its system, publicly recognizing the contributions of Muslim students and educators to the intellectual and cultural wealth of the city and province.
In recent years, the TDSB has encouraged the use of IHMC resources, such as multi-grade workbooks developed to introduce students to Islamic history and culture (and which are also available for downloading from the IHMC website).
Here's one delightful IHMC lesson that the TDSB has apparently encouraged.

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