In our new “Have Your Say” op-ed, the Prague-based educator, curator, and filmmaker Martin Šmok reviews the privately established Jewish museum that opened in 2016 in Lecce, at the very tip of the heel of Italy’s boot, where Jews flourished in the middle ages but were expelled half a millennium ago.
He writes that “visiting small regional Jewish museums in Europe can be quite a stressful experience for an educator involved in anti-stereotype education, a person like me.”
I have spent the last fifteen years teaching educators that a racist group label remains a racist group label even when it gets flipped into positive, that Nazi racial laws are not valid anymore and that the Communist label of “person of Jewish origin” is based on nothing else but the Nazi Nuremberg laws. Sometimes the well-meant local exhibitions end up promoting stereotypical claims about “the Jews,” featuring only the rich, famous and influential families, using unnecessary atrocity imagery for shock impact at the end of their narratives, mistaking it for Holocaust education.
That’s why he, writes, he found his visit to the Lecce museum a “refreshing and energizing experience” in a museum “filled with question marks.”