Creating the Lily’s Legacy Education Toolkit – A blog

Creating the Lily’s Legacy Education Toolkit

– A Blog by Thamar Barnett

In a short space of time the Lily’s Legacy Project has collected archival material relating to Lily Montagu’s life and achievements. A wealth of oral and visual testimonies of people involved in Liberal Judaism has been amassed. In conjunction, a wonderful in depth online exhibition has been created. A key aim is for the collection to introduce many different audiences to Lily Montagu, including young adults, through the development of an educational workshop.  That task came to me. The brief sounded simple. It had to have blended learning built in as we were in the middle of a pandemic and face to face learning was a long way off. The use of Art and creative activities where a must. Finally it had to be tailored to different audiences and levels.

After immersing myself in the topic I identified three main themes;  History (Lily’s background story) Religion and Social Justice and Action:

History: it is important to contextualise the time Lily grew up. What did she witness and experience that made her determined to undertake all she did in the field of religion and social work? What becomes clear when looking at the gender divide at the time and the limited roles women could play outside the home is how much Lily had to overcome in order to achieve what she did. By investigating this more closely it can add to knowledge and understanding of the past, but it can also be incredibly inspiring to see where Lily’s drive and tenacity got her, something people might draw strength from.

Religion: Lily stood for change, she wanted women to be able to take on a more active role and she advocated a religion that was able to reflect the needs of the time. By comparing and contrasting the different streams in Judaism students will be aware that there are different ways in expressing what is written in the Torah without compromising the core values. It is a springboard for discussions and teaching about Judaism as a lived experience.

Social Justice and Action: Lily Montagu devoted her life to religion and working towards a more caring society. Her example of working towards societal change and looking beyond ones own community still resonates within Liberal Judaism. This raises important questions about being an ‘upstander’ or being a bystander and that every individual positive action counts.

The education resource is very much told by the people. Using the rich visual archive three short films have been cut. It provides context and enables people to learn from and about Lily through the voices of those actively engaged within the Liberal Jewish movement. It also highlights the continuity and the change that Lily advocated and that tradition and change can live side by side.

Important was to incorporate as many different learning styles as possible, using film, art, object handling, discussion and drama. All films have been subtitled and care has been taken to use clear fonts, colour and language. The resource has been created with the input of young adults from beginning to end. A focus group was set up at the start which yielded very interesting comments and ideas, and a pilot in the garden which helped me to adapt and finetune tasks and wording. It did take a bit of persuading and bribing with pizza but the results were really helpful and have shaped the contents of this resource, the young adults really took their time and were honest in their feedback.

Prior to Lily Legacy’s project I have to admit to my shame that I did not know much about Lily Montagu.  There are still so many untold stories that deserve to be expanded on, Lily’s role in bringing over jewish refugees in the 1930’s, delving deeper into her religious thoughts.  Exploring more about her work in the poorest part of the Jewish community, all important issues that deserve closer attention. Learning from Lily finding out more about the principles and positive open outlook of Liberal Judaism, without compromising on faith makes me proud to be part of the Liberal Jewish Movement. In fact I couldn’t imagine being anything else than a liberal jew.

A final shout out: for the object handling session we need an orthodox and a liberal Siddur, Tallit and Kippot. Of course when teaching in a synagogue this might be easier to come by but if the resource is deposited at the LMA, to have a set to include would be wonderful.

  • The Lily’s Legacy Education Toolkit will be launched on Sunday 02 May 2021 at the Liberal Judaism Biennial Conference and will be freely downloadable from this site .