Tuesday, 19 July 2022 by Alison Doyle

Rome, Italy

The Colosseum. Roman Forum. Museum of Jewish History. Caesar’s grave. Arch of Titus. Jewish Ghetto. Fabrician Bridge. Two synagogues. A quick trip to the Steelers’ bar. It’s a lot to see in one day. And in temps nearing 100* no less. 

There’s so much to learn and experience on a trip like this, it’s sort of hard to process right away. There will be bits of information and photos and stories that work their way into my classroom and life for years to come. 

Right now, as I try to cool off before dinner, I can’t stop thinking about the Arch of Titus. We know that history is written by the victors, and that seems so poignant in light of this monument. 

In my history books I learned (briefly) about Titus’ deification following his successful conquests. I may or may not have learned about his battle against the Jewish people of Judea. I’m not sure. It may have been one sentence. I doubt it though. 

Standing in front of the arch and hearing about its direct connection to the Jewish War was remarkable. To see and photograph the carvings was an irreplaceable experience. And then we started learning about its significance into the 20th century – something my history classes certainly didn’t address.

I now understand how this arch – this monument so similar to others standing innocuously around the world – is a symbol of Jewish persecution. There’s so much more to the Jewish story in addition to the Holocaust, and this trip has made that all so real. 

Standing in the Museo Ebraico di Roma, I was confronted with the vibrancy of Jewish life that once permeated Italy. Dozens upon dozens of intricate and singular parochets are displayed almost as artwork. The countless hours, dedication, and care that must have gone into each piece is nearly unfathomable. To me, each stitch represents the devotion of a person inexplicably targeted based on their faith and culture. 

It can be easy to see something as breathtaking as the Pantheon or the Senate building and just get lost in the size of it. Looking at the massive columns today, I didn’t think about the countless individuals whose life’s work was that structure. 

The parochets, for whatever reason, lead me to think about the people who purchased the fabric, made the stitches, donated to the synagogue, and hung it before the ark. These individuals who wanted to simply practice their religion and honor their traditions.

The individual is key to making history real to students, and making connections to today’s world. Each stitch and each carving is an individual.

Tomorrow will be another (hot!) day filled with rich discussion, beautiful monuments, and countless learning moments. It’ll be another busy day to cap off this whirlwind of a trip. But what I’m looking forward to most is learning from and with my CWB colleagues, and then sharing with my students.

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