Blogging the Institute: Sharing Artifacts, Sharing Stories

Rachel shares the afghan her mother bought her when she went to college, at JWA’s third Summer Institute for Educators.

JWA’s third Summer Institute for Educators kicked off last night with a conversation that allowed participants to share their own personal pieces of history. Everyone brought an object that symbolized the impact of a special Jewish woman on their lives. There was an incredible range of objects, old and new, from a hand-knitted yarmulke to a recycled and recyclable plastic plate, from a hundred-year-old diary to a pair of flashy earrings.

The stories the objects told came from mothers and daughters, great-grandmothers and friends, and they were funny, sad, poignant, and full of history. There was a lot of laughter and few tears as we shared the stories. It was very special for all of us to learn about each other’s personal and family histories as we prepared to spend the next week together learning about the history of Jewish women in the Civil Rights Movement, the subject of JWA's new curriculum Living the Legacy.

One of my favorite stories went with a brightly striped afghan. Rachel recalled how, when she graduated from high school, all her friend’s mothers were making them quilts or afghans to take to college. Rachel’s mother wasn’t a crafty person, but, understanding how much her daughter wanted a blanket to take to college, brought her to a retirement home that was selling hand-made afghans and said, “You can have anything you want from here, and somebody else’s grandma made it!” Rachel explained how special this story was, because it showed her mother was a woman who could make the best of any situation and “make lemons out of lemonade.”

This was just one of the many wonderful stories we heard last night. I can’t wait to listen as the stories continue to unfold throughout the week.

To see more photos from this event, visit the 2010 institute for Educators set on Flickr.

Topics: Education
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I love this story.

Years ago, my mother picked up knitting. It was during a period when we didn't communicate particularly well. So, she decided to knit me a hat. She asked what color I'd like. I replied, "whatever you like." She asked what style, and I replied, "whatever you like." So, she went down to the local store and picked up a knit cap.

"It occurred to me," she said, "that if it didn't matter to you, I had other things I could be doing with my time." It was one of the first times I can remember her stepping back and realizing that she had a life independent of trying to be a stereotypical Jewish mother, and doing what was convenient for her. It made the hat she bought more treasured than any she might have knitted me.

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How to cite this page

Gwen. "Blogging the Institute: Sharing Artifacts, Sharing Stories." 26 July 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 28, 2024) <>.