JDS students participate in multi-school field trip

Eliana Wolf, Reporter

Students from CESJDS, Bishop McNamara, The David Posnack Jewish Day School and the Boyd H. Anderson high school took a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the Holocaust and African American History and Culture museums on Monday, April 17. This field trip was part of a larger initiative for high school students to learn how to combat antisemitism and racism. 

The goal of the field trip was to bring members of the Jewish and African-American communities together to learn more about each other’s history and culture. The trip included local schools JDS and Bishop McNamara along with Florida schools Posnack and Boyd H. Anderson. 

Junior Oz Alon, a Posnack School student, feels that the partnership between Jewish and African American schools is really beneficial and important for both communities. 

“Where I am right now, there’s not too many African American people,” Alon said. So it’s hard to get that side of their history unless it’s from a textbook. So being able to really hear their stories and visit those museums gave me a sense of cultural integration.”

The day started with a tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Students learned about the rise of Nazi Germany in 1933, with inciting events such as Kristallnacht, and the tour closed with the allies liberating the camps in 1945. The morning was devoted to the history of antisemitism and how to combat it today. 

“Seeing all those stories about the ghetto, and then seeing how it was reconstructed, seeing the steps that the Nazis took to establish such a thing, was extremely powerful,” Alon said. “Because being a European Jew, this was an event that my entire family underwent and the results you can even see today through generational trauma.”

After the Holocaust Museum, students ate lunch on the National Mall, giving them time to reflect on what they have learned, share their experiences, and socialize with others from various backgrounds.

Freshman Ayala Karo found lunchtime to be a very enjoyable part of the day, because she felt that a break was needed to split up the museums. 

“We got to talk with people from the different schools, mainly from Florida,” Karo said. “And that was really nice to compare experiences and compare the differences between our schools and our lives in general, and they were all really nice.”

After lunch, the group visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Students walked through the general exhibit, learning about the history of African Americans and their experiences in the United States starting in the 1400s and ending with Barack Obama’s inauguration. There were also exhibits on Afro-futurism, a movement to express futuristic themes in traditional Black culture and an exhibit on African American musicians that students toured. 

For students at JDS, this was a new experience of going to the African American history museum with members of the African American community. 

“Going to the African American Museum [with the schools] forces you to take a new perspective and see it not only as an outsider, but truly as a person who is connected to this,” Karo said. 

Both the Holocaust Museum and the African American History and Culture museum gave new insights and information to the visiting students. With the goal of educating high schoolers about the Jewish and African-American culture and history, many students on the field trip believe the museums were the best way to get unbiased and credible information.  

Jewish History Department Chair Dan Rosenthal believes the field trip was an excellent way to get people from different communities together. 

“I think that the opportunity for dialogue and the ability to just meet with other teens in a fairly casual way is really fantastic and, and is probably the best way to counter racism, antisemitism and other forms of hatred,” Rosenthal said. 

The end of the day was at the All Set Restaurant in downtown Silver Spring. There was a professor of African American Studies from George Mason University, and an American University Jewish History professor that spoke about combating antisemitism and racism. They also talked to the group about the historical relationship between Jewish and African American communities, as they taught a joint class about it last semester. 

Combating antisemitism and racism as high schoolers was a priority for many on the trip, and this was the perfect place to start. All of the students got to learn from each other and many students were motivated to work toward a society that is more inclusive and educated about the Jewish and African American communities. 

“It was really great to see just how all of the students from all the schools were able to interact with one another and to see how much they all had in common,” Rosenthal said.