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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus



Published: 2022-02-03

In September–December 2021, the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History engaged in educational mission and provided an opportunity for schoolchildren from Lithuanian regions to come to Vilnius and take part in the museum’s educational programmes or excursions around the museum's branches located in various parts of the city free of charge, including the Samuel Bak Museum, the Holocaust Exposition and Paneriai Memorial. The project was carried out together with partners: the Embassy of the United States of America in Vilnius and the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.

Educational projects are one of the most important fields of activity of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History. By combining the accumulation, preservation and research of museum valuables with the provision of information about Jewish history, culture and heritage, including related education, to society, the museum attaches great importance to educational projects for pupils, encouraging to get to know Jewish culture and historical experiences, and promote such values as empathy, citizenship and tolerance. 
Pupils and teachers organising their educational visits had the opportunity to choose a tour or an educational programme at the Samuel Bak Museum or the Holocaust Exposition and a tour of the Paneriai Memorial. In total, 22 groups of pupils from different areas of Lithuania visited the museum, including those from Neringa, Pagėgiai, Kalvariai, Viduklė, Voveriškiai, Ariogala, Kelmė, Utena, Jonava, Klaipėda, Kretinga and others. The Samuel Bak Museum held 19 educational events and 9 more were held at the Holocaust Exposition. Moreover, a total of 16 tours were conducted around the museum's branches and the Paneriai Memorial. As many as 572 pupils of grades 7 to 12 and 42 teachers visited the museum's expositions and participated in various educational programmes.
A graduate of a Gymnasium in Kelmė named after Jonas Graičiūnas wrote the following after visiting several branches of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, namely the Samuel Bak Museum and the Paneriai Memorial: ‘This tour touched our hearts very deeply, made us think about how good and safe our current life is, and reminded us of all those killed during World War II. This tour and visit to the museum will remain in my memory for a long time...’
The educational project ‘Painting in Words’ offered by the Samuel Bak Museum received major attention. The participants of the educational programme were introduced to the life story of the Litvak artist Samuel Bak based on the artist's autobiographical book Painted in Words and took part in discussions on his painful experiences in the ghetto and existential search for humanity with the help of a newly installed virtual tool – an art website www.menas.samuelisbakas.lt meant to get to know Samuel Bak's art. The new website has received positive feedback from schoolchildren. A pupil from Viduklė Simonas Stanevičius' Gymnasium in Raseiniai District wrote: ‘I want to go back to the Samuel Bak Museum and sit among the paintings he has created. They're outstanding. Different than usual (at least I see them like this). It's great that there's an app created by the museum that I can use. Thank you.’ Ž. Mickeliūnas, a teacher of Natviškiai Zosė Petraitienė's Basic School in Pagėgiai wrote: ‘I really enjoyed the educational programme at the Samuel Bak Museum ‘Painting in Words’. The information has been perfectly conveyed even to younger schoolchildren. <.. > Very interactive and visual. <... > Pupils liked the interactive art tour on the website www.menas.samuelisbakas.lt that they were taken to on their phones. It kept them engaged.’
The educational programme ‘Holocaust in Lithuania: Missions’ received most attention at the Holocaust Exposition. It is focussed on providing pupils with deeper knowledge of the massacre of Jews in Lithuania during the Nazi occupation. Here the pupils had an opportunity to go on a tour in English led by Florian Edlinger, a volunteer of the museum from Austrian organisation Gedenkdienst. A. Vaičiūnaitė-Levuškienė, an educator at the Kalvarijos Gymnasium wrote the following about the experience at the Holocaust Exposition: ‘As part of the educational programme ‘The Holocaust in Lithuania: Missions’ we visited a malina, which left a huge impression on everyone. The overall atmosphere and the activities that engaged in the exposition led to a better knowledge about the history and context of the tragedy. The tour led by the Austrian volunteer both provided with historic knowledge and enriched our English knowledge.’
The experience of pupils and teachers has been best described by Ž. Klimienė, a teacher at Kelmė Jonas Graičiūnas' Gymnasium: ‘It is not so easy to put in words all that our pupils received out of this tour: a tear running down a cheek while listening to some historic facts or looking at the pictures of the condemned says more than words, just like the eloquent silence of the whole group of schoolchildren standing in Paneriai, including their emotions when trying to describe all they have seen and heard. It is important that they learned a lot about the Jewish people, their customs, and religion. As a result pupils both gained information and developed tolerance, understanding of one another and those who are different, and respect towards every person.’
The team of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, which includes museum specialists and educators Jurgita Jackevičiūtė, Natalja Cheifec, Mantas Šikšnianas, Dr. Šarūnė Sederevičiūtė and volunteer Florian Edlinger, invites everyone to register for excursions and educational programmes that are well-fitted for schoolchildren, adults and senior citizens.
Organizer:                                                       Sponsor and partner of the project:                               Partner:                 
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