The history of Brzesko is inextricably linked to the fate of its Jewish community; at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, the town’s mayor was Henoch Klopholz, one of its members. At the end of October 2017, a group from the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York came to Brzesko, a town in the Lesser Poland Province, to learn about its rich history. They were hosted by the alumni of the 2016 School of Dialogue program, the students from Mikołaj Kopernik High School No 1 in Brzesko.
The visit in school was an opportunity for an honest dialogue between the youth from Brzesko and their Jewish guests. First everyone participated in icebreakers led by Forum for Dialogue educator. Then the students prepared refreshments to enjoy while waiting for the walking tour.
The meeting did not only take place in the school premises; despite the rain, the high school students from Brzesko invited their guests to a walking tour following the footsteps of the Jewish community of their town, which they translated into English. The guests were very impressed by the efforts the students had made for the School of Dialogue program. The students told the tour participants different local stories about the preserved houses of prayers, the mikveh, the market square and the Jewish cemetery; all presented on the spots where, before the WWII, the life of Jews from Brzesko had flourished.
The walk ended up at the Jewish cemetery, by the newly-erected monument commemorating a mass grave from the war. The students lit candles as it was right before the All Saints’ Day, whereas Rabbi Neil Zuckerman, participant in the trip, recited the prayer for the dead.
Although the group had to rush to Krakow to be there in time for Shabbat, the meeting will be long remembered by both the guests and the students.