By COLlive reporter
100 children from local public schools gathered at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights Tuesday for a day of fun and learning, along with a Kosher pizza lunch.
The children from Middle Schools 61, 584 and 587 enjoyed a tour of the museum, a game show and crafts, followed by a ‘Town Hall’ style meeting with the museum’s director of foundations and government services Mrs. Devorah Halberstam and the museum’s director of programming, Rabbi Nissen Brenenson.
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Children’s Museum, with lunch sponsored by the CHJCC, as a follow up to a call for action at a recent community meeting after a number of “knock out” attacks occurred in Crown Heights.
The event was coordinated by the NYPD 71st and 77th Precincts community affairs detectives Vinny Martinos and Tanya Salters. Both inspectors George Fitzgibbon and Eddie Lott were in attendance at the event.
Halberstam related to the children how her son Ari Halberstam was murdered because he was a Jew, and that he was hated simply because he could be identified as Jewish.
The children also had a chance to ask questions about Jewish culture and heritage.
The response from the children was “amazing,” relates Halberstam, and said that they began to open up and ask many questions. She said she was surprised at how unfamiliar the children were with many aspects of Jewish culture, even though they live side by side with many Jewish neighbors.
“The children asked questions like ‘What are those fringes on Jewish clothing?’ and ‘Are all Jewish people Rabbis?’ They also couldn’t believe a Jewish museum could be this much fun,” Halberstam said.
Halberstam was moved by their response to hearing about Ari’s murder. “Many of them came over to me to express their condolences, saying they were so sorry about my loss. They showed compassion and good will, and this is indicative of what kind of homes they are raised in,” she said.
Halberstam says this pilot program introducing non-Jewish children to Jewish culture in a fun and positive setting is critical for maintaining good relations between the Crown Heights communities.
“These children are the next generation’s leaders. This is the best way to build relationships of understanding and kindness,” she said.