The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe provides students and pedagogues with comprehensive material about the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe. Besides alphabetically arranged articles one has access to almost 1500 pictures, audio and video documents, 60 different maps and almost 200 scanned original documents (esp. letters, postcards and poems).
For pedagogues Yivo arranged the available material according to different topics and developed possible lesson plans to be implemented in class. The tutorial with the title “To be a Jewish teenager in Poland” fits best to the topic of the recent Magazin.
The aim of the tutorial is to give students an idea about the diversity of Jewish society in interwar Poland. Jewish life was politically, religiously and culturally much more diverse than it is usually presented. “What was it like to be a teenager growing up in that world?” is the question the students are invited to deal with.
The material consists of a lesson plan, a power-point presentation on the topic and a handout with excerpts from Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland before the Holocaust.
The plan offers a detailed outline of a possible lesson including suggestions for discussion topics and extension activities. It contains also a list of recommended articles and maps from the encyclopedia.
The power-point presentation is a combination of texts and photographs. It starts with an introduction into the life of children at the beginning of the 20th century and the situation in Poland in the interwar period. Young people were aware about the unstable situation they faced being a large minority within the state. Growing discrimination contributed to the formation of a variety of youth organizations. Young people are presented as an active group which reacted to threats from the outside. The overall image which remains of the presentation is the diversity of Jewish youth life.
All in all the material offers the opportunity to outline on the one hand how diverse life of a supposed uniform group can be and on the other hand how close this can be to our own life. Students may reflect about the situation of people in a country and time far away from their own lives, but may realize that it did not differ a lot from their own reality. Generally, the usage of this material in class may be a starting point to further take advantage of the rich material offered by the encyclopedia.