Aspiring high school English teacher Jennie Ellis is one of only 16 people selected to participate in an education-focused internship program run by the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Established in 1998, the initiative, known as the Lipper Internship Program, trains interns to teach young students about the Holocaust and Jewish history.
“I’ve always been interested in the subject of the Holocaust,” says Ellis, a junior who is majoring in English and minoring in psychology at Southern. “It’s undoubtedly a tragic slice of human history, yet it’s also marked by bravery and resilience.” After applying to the internship program in 2012, the Ansonia resident was chosen to begin the program in fall 2013.
The internship is open to undergraduate and graduate students who attend school in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. “From the beginning, we knew it was important, as an educational institution, to offer a meaningful internship program to those interested in Holocaust education and history,” says Betsy Aldredge, director of media relations for the museum.
The internship runs for an entire semester, beginning with a two-week training period that includes studying the museum’s exhibitions, attending seminars led by Museum of Jewish Heritage scholars and meeting Holocaust survivors.
Ellis says the training was overwhelming at first, but the program coordinators were very helpful. Listening to the personal accounts of three Holocaust survivors and a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide was a powerful experience, she adds.
The first account she heard was particularly moving, says Ellis, recalling Sally Frishberg’s vivid description of hiding from the Nazis.
“I could see it clearly in my mind,” says Ellis. “The terrified family dug out from under a pile of old husks and stalks . . . living in an attic, in the dark, in silence with barely any food and no room to stretch their legs…”
Now that her training is complete, Ellis and the other interns bring groups of middle and high school students to the museum where lessons are integrated with tours of the exhibitions.
She also shares her knowledge with schools in Connecticut through presentations on Jewish heritage and the Holocaust. Ellis says she had a very positive experience at New London High School, where she taught five classes of freshman students. She is also scheduled to teach at High Horizons Magnet School and James J. Curiale School, both in Bridgeport; Windham High School in Willimantic, and Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich before completing the internship in June.