Courtesy of Sarah Sassoon
1. Remember Bangles
Shoham’s bangle is a special object that helps her feel a sense of attachment, belonging and remembering. She remembers where she comes the Jewish world in Baghdad. She also remembers Hebrew words for settling in her new home in Israel. We all remember different things which are important to us. We all have different objects that are meaningful to us, and help us remember.
Discussion Question: Do you have a special object that reminds you of something, or makes you feel special? Perhaps you have a family object, like Shoham’s bangle which is special to your family.
Activity 1: Make paper remember bangles — Each child can decorate and write on their bangle, a Hebrew word they want to remember, or something important to them, before it’s attached as a bangle on their wrist.
Activity 2: What’s your story? Just like Shoham’s bangle has a story, everyone can write/draw/bring from home their own special objects and tell their stories. Everyone can take turns showing and sharing their objects and stories.
2. Baking Date Cookies
Shoham comes from Iraq, which is in the Middle East. She cuts out Iraqi date cookies called Ba’aba Tamar with her bangle. When she arrives in Israel there are different cookie ingredients so she makes semolina cookies.
Discussion Question: Each country has their own special cookie recipes. What’s your favorite cookie? Perhaps you have a special family recipe, maybe even from another country like Shoham.
Activity: Baking Cookies
Make Baba Tamar-Iraqi date cookies using bangles to shape them, just as Shoham does. Could also do semolina cookies as they baked in Israel, because flour was scarce at the time. The children can learn how dates were the main Iraqi fruit, used in many Iraqi-Jewish dishes, and can compare it to chocolate cookies — which can also be made (in my experience all children prefer chocolate to date.)
An alternative is to make khubz - a typical Iraqi pita bread, like Shoham’s nana makes, and see how a bubble forms in the middle, and how something like a bangle can be hidden in it.
3. The Jews of Iraq
The Jews of Iraq trace their origins to the time of the Babylonians, 2,500 years ago. This means they have different traditions, foods and language to Jews from Europe and other places. This is an opportunity to explore differences as well as similarities. Which shows each Jewish community is connected but has it’s own unique culture, such as giving young girls bangles.
Discussion Question — What do you know about Jews in the Middle East? Iraq? What cultural differences do they have?
Activity — Match It Game — Present the cultural similarities and differences through a match it game, thus introducing Iraqi-Jewish traditions. For example a picture of challah and Iraqi flatbread would be a match. The children could discuss how both Jewish communities would bless two breads for Shabbat, but different types of bread. Other examples of picture matches would be:
Shabbat Candles — Europe — Candle sticks
Iraq — A glass bowl hanging with three silver chains from the ceiling, with seven cotton wicks.
Rabbinic Dress — Europe — Black coat and fur hat
— Iraq — Colorful embroidered robe and turban
Synagogues — Europe — Elaborate, big Synagogue like in Rome
— Iraq — The Great Synagogue in Baghdad had an open roof
Music — European — Klezmer Band
— Iraq — Chalqi Band (very different instruments eg. the oud.)
4. The Iraqi-Jewish history of Operation Ezra & Nehemiah
Operation Ezra & Nehemiah was a historic event where 120,000 Jews, like Shoham and her family, left Iraq and were airlifted to Israel from 1951 – 52.
Discussion Question — Shoham flew to Israel on an airplane, and it felt like being carried on a giant eagle’s wings. What does flying feel like? What does it mean when an entire community flies out of a country.
Activity 1 - World Map
The idea of immigration moving from one country to another is something hard to imagine until you see it visually. Everyone would receive a small paper map, paper people to cut out, and a plane they can color in and mark.
Track Shoham’s air journey from Iraq to Israel. Track the route from where you live to Iraq and to Israel. Explore the world map with different questions such as:
- Shoham’s family originates from Iraq, where does your family originate from? Find it on the map and color it in. Track it from where you live now.
b) Which countries have you traveled to on the map? Where would you want to travel to? Color and track it on the map.
5. Immigrant Experience
There are many people who have had to leave their country of birth and move to a new one like Shoham and her family. Understanding the challenges of the immigrant, such as learning a new language, eating new foods, not having money, such as Shoham had to face, widens our hearts and understanding of other people, so that we treat them with respect and dignity.
Discussion Question — What it is to leave a place you were born in to rebuild a whole new life in a foreign, new country? How we can have compassion for immigrants, such as Shoham, who have to leave their homes? Have you, or do you know anyone, who has moved homes, cities, countries? What was difficult for them?
Activity 1 - Shoham and her family could only pack one suitcase. What would you pack in your suitcase if you could only take one suitcase? It’s not easy to decide is it.
Activity 2 — Build Shoham a home. What would Shoham need to start a new life in a foreign place? Draw or with paper cut outs — create Shoham a new home and life, with everything she needs.