Trunk of Tolerance Project
Stories of Survival, Rescuers and Resistance
Growing up near Pittsburgh, I spent many Sundays in Squirrel Hill visiting my great aunts and uncles. We enjoyed fresh rye bread, challah and danish before we picked up my grandmother‘s order at the kosher butcher. Then ate wonderful lean corned beef sandwiches, food we didn’t have access to in our small rural town of sixty Jewish families. It seemed like everyone there was Jewish and I remember feeling very safe walking around. So much Jewish culture was apparent everywhere: the Orthodox men in their big hats, the Jewish art in the store windows, the notices announcing concerts with Jewish artists and themes, and the many talks/lecture series on Jewish text, holidays and Israel. To a young person, anti-Semitism seemed totally absent from this warm, thriving community.
Fifty years later, I am not so naïve, but still heartbroken for the victims, their families, the police who tried to save and protect the Squirrel Hill community, and for Jews everywhere. We are all changed.
Hope still shines in this tragedy in the way non-Jews have come together to support us and reassure us that bigotry and violence have no place in our society.
To that end, the interfaith Holocaust Education & Memorial Committee launched a Trunk of Tolerance project last winter. Already 500 students from two New Bedford middle schools have used the materials. The trunks contain non-fiction stories written from children’s viewpoints; posters; personal histories from the U.S. Holocaust Museum; lessons on zip drives; and art supplies. Its focus is on resistors, rescuers and survivors. Teachers may borrow a trunk for two weeks to integrate these materials into their existing curriculum. After the students learn about the Holocaust, they create art projects to reflect their impressions that they then pass on to the next class, generating a conversation about diversity and respect.
Mrs. Eckhardt, 8th grade ELA teacher at Normandin Middle School in NB:
“My students were inspired by the Trunk of Tolerance. The idea that they would have the chance to create something that could inspire students from other schools who, in turn, could also create and inspire others was a big motivator. They don’t often get to reach out and recognize shared school experiences.”
Demand to borrow the trunks is growing. We now have four Trunks of Tolerance available for teachers from Dartmouth, Fall River, New Bedford, Mattapoisett and Rochester to borrow. The cost of the materials for each trunk is about $500, paid for by the Jewish Federation. If you would like to support this most worthwhile and timely project, please donate to the Federation today. Any amount is appreciated.