An academic journey that took 14-year old Eitan Murinson to the days of vaudeville will be taking him to Israel next month.
Murinson, an eighth-grader at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville, was chosen as one of 40 students out of more than 12,000 who submitted projects about their family history as part of the My Family Story program. The curriculum was developed 20 years ago by Beit Hatfutsot-The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv as a way for Jewish students between ages 12 and 15 to learn more about their family heritage. It includes the annual Manual Hirsch Grosskopf International Competition in which students from around the world create projects that explore their family roots.
Murinson created a vaudeville-era stage replica using cardboard and wallpaper to honor his ancestors who were performers in the early 1900s. He made curtains out of fabric and even included stage lights. To accompany the stage, he used a Lazy Susan to display several old photos of his family that his mother had found.
“It was composed in an interesting way, but it worked, and I was very pleased,” Murinson said.
Murinson plays piano, sings and is involved in theater at Beth Tfiloh. He said his inspiration for the project came from his love for music.
“I really thought that that was a great topic to do my project,” he said.
This was the first year Beth Tfiloh implemented the program as part of a joint effort with the Jewish Museum of Maryland. In March, 41 projects were displayed at the museum, and two were selected as finalists for the competition. According to the museum’s director of education, Ilene Dackmon-Alon, the projects were judged based on the criteria of depth and research, aesthetics, creativity and connection to Jewish peoplehood.
Dackmon-Alon said the program succeeded at Beth Tfiloh with the help of a small grant from the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education. She said she was thrilled when she found out Murinson had been selected as one of the 40 winners.
“I was over the moon,” she said. “We were very excited. It’s a wonderful program, and it just speaks volumes about how kids learn and connections. And the project is so student focused, and with kids’ creativity, it just amazing.”
[pullquote]“[Eitan has] been an absolute pleasure to teach. He’s curious and intelligent and has strong opinions and is able to stick by them. He’s a wonderful student to have.”[/pullquote]
Eighth-grade ancient history teacher Lizabeth Shrier said all of her students submitted projects, which she called “great examples of resilience.” They included a bridge representing a death march in Poland and a door of buttons in honor of a student’s grandfather who worked in a tailor shop.
“It was a very impactful program,” she said. “I don’t think that our students realized how meaningful this was until the actual night of the exhibit.”
Shrier said she has thoroughly enjoyed having Murinson in her class this year and that he has added an interesting perspective to the classroom.
“He’s been an absolute pleasure to teach,” she said. “He’s curious and intelligent and has strong opinions and is able to stick by them. He’s a wonderful student to have.”
Shrier hopes to include the My Family Story curriculum in her future classes but said she is making sure it will work logistically.
“We’re definitely evaluating it,” she said. “We see lots of worth and value in this program.”
Just as Murinson was shocked when he found out he was one of the final 200 projects selected, he was equally shocked to discover he had been selected as one of the winners. He credits his mother and Shrier as being important guides.
“Ms. Shrier’s been an exceptional adviser,” he said. “She’s really helped me through every one of my endeavors this year. She’s been here to talk and help me through different aspects of life.”
Murinson will travel to Israel for the formal ceremony on June 14 in Tel Aviv.