• What’s New

    at Forum for Dialogue?

Last weekend, September 15-17, Forum for Dialogue organized the third Local Leaders of Dialogue Conference. These annual meetings – added to the Leaders of Dialogue program in 2015 – are aimed at creating a convenient space in which Leaders could interact and integrate, share experiences and strengthen mutual bonds in a group supportive of each other. It is an opportunity to present their work to others, and exchange ideas, solutions and experiences on the ground.

This year the event was held in Podkarpackie province and hosted by Leaders active in that region: Adam, Joanna and Michał Lorenc and Magdalena Zykiert in Rymanów, Jacek Koszczan in Dukla and Jerzy Dębiec in Nowy Żmigród. The three locations and the sheer number of hosts provided a unique insight into different challenges and approaches to commemoration of Jewish past, and reconnecting ties between descendants of Polish Jews abroad and contemporary Poland.

In Rymanów, the main focus of the team of activists affiliated with “Spotkanie Rymanów” Association is to facilitate the dialogue between the descendants of Rymanów’s Jews and contemporary residents of the town. They hold gatherings which give participants an opportunity to learn about each other and share stories. Members of “Spotkanie Rymanów” team not only managed to create a wide network of contacts, but also secured support for their activities from local authorities and the parish priest. During the Rymanów section of the Conference program, the participants had a chance to familiarize themselves with preserved material heritage of the Rymanów’s Jewish community: cemetery with ohalim of famous Rymanów’s tzadikim, synagogue and remaining unique urban layout of the typical Galician shtetl. They also saw the effects of the association’s international cooperation. One such example is the Malka’s House, which became a museum of Rymanów’s Jewish community. It was renovated thanks to the generous support of Malka Shacham Doron, granddaughter of the former owner of the house. Leaving Rymanów, one of the participants remarked jokingly that it seems that the Rymanów Leaders know all the descendants of Rymanów Jews.

photo J.Szkarłat

In Dukla, the local Leader of Dialogue, Jacek Koszczan shared with the group the details of the prolonged formal process involved in obtaining permits and funding to erect a monument commemorating the town’s Jewish population. This was incredibly useful for those among the Leaders, who themselves are planning their own remembrance projects. In Dukla, the group visited the ruined synagogue, and heard about the plans for its restoration, which date back as far as the 1950s and 1960s.

photo J.Szkarłat

Finally, in Nowy Żmigród, the local Leader of Dialogue, Jerzy Dębiec talked about the challenges faced by a Leader of Dialogue working alone, as his only associate recently decided to move to another town. Everyone was deeply impressed by the dedication and amount of hard work that Jerzy Dębiec puts into taking care of the Nowy Żmigród’s Jewish cemetery. One of the participants even commented in appreciation that the grass on the cemetery resembles that of a golf course. In turn, Jerzy Dębiec could hear from Leaders more experienced in international projects, as he is currently planning to establish connections with descendants of Nowy Żmigród’s Jews. The group then went to Hałbowska mountain pass, where they paid their respects at the site of a mass grave making a spot where over 1200 local Jews lost their lives during the war.

photo: J.Szkarłat

Project co-financed by the Ledor Wador Foundation.

In appreciation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) for supporting this educator training program. Through recovering the assets of the victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference enables organizations around the world to provide education about the Shoah and to preserve the memory of those who perished.


September 21st, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

Leo Wolinsky, a descendant of Polish Jews with roots in Gródek and a participant of Forum’s 2015 Study Visit to Poland, returned to his father’s town to meet with School of Dialogue students working on commemorating Gródek Jewish community. Leo Wolinsky is a veteran journalist who spent the first half of his career as a writer and reporter and the second as a news executive. That includes more than three decades at the Los Angeles Times, where he lead an editorial staff of more than 1,000 and directed coverage that won the paper two Pulitzer Prizes. On September 8th, 2017, when he visited Gródek, he said : “I came here because my father and two generations of his family were born here. I hope that pupils from Gródek’s school will help me in researching those roots, discovering my family’s history.”

His hopes were met, as the 2016 School of Dialogue alumni have become, during the program, real experts in local Jewish history. The effects of their work included in Places that are no more, a state-of-the-art compendium of knowledge about pre-war history and topography of Gródek, created by the Friends of Gródek Region Society and funded by the local authorities.

Gródek has a rich and diverse history. At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly 80% of Gródek inhabitants were Jewish, mainly small-scale craftsmen, business owners and traders. The social, religious, cultural and political life of the community was abundant. There were five synagogues and two Hasidic shtiebels, a cemetery, numerous schools, kosher restaurants, a pharmacy and a photo studio. Pre-war memoirs and diaries all mention how fierce the competition was between the local branches of political movements, from Betar zionists to Bundists and Communists. Having discovered this vibrant history of her hometown, one of the School of Dialogue students commented: “Gródek, which seemed to be this small village, now seems a great one to me.” Her friend added: “I wasn’t interested in those things before; now, as I know who lived in Gródek before, it all seems very interesting to me.”

Leo Wolinsky’s visit begun with a meeting at the school, where students and their guest had a chance to get to know each other. He told them how his interest in his family’s history was sparked  by a detective who called him up one day and asked if he was that Leo Wolinsky. What followed would merit an international spy thriller! He also shared his discoveries with the students. They, in turn, had a chance to ask many questions regarding contemporary Jewish life in the U.S. Afterwards, together they attended the unveiling ceremony of a plaque in honor of Lew Cukierman, a pre-war Jewish physician and a popular Gródek figure tragically murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

From the ceremony, the students took their guest, as well as other tour participants, including others students, local journalists, and a famous Polish painter and local activist, Leon Tarasewicz, on a tour of Jewish Gródek that they prepared themselves. The students were very well-prepared, and the tour featured a snack stop with challah at the site of a prewar kosher restaurant, and a mock photo studio and hair salon, next to the building in which they were once located. These representations were done sensitively and appealed to the younger members of the audience.

The students personalized the tour for their guest. The greatest surprise came when they showed him a photograph of his aunt who, as it turned out, was one of the most active members of the local Jewish drama group. The group specialized in Yiddish theater classics, and was so successful, it received official patronage of the local firefighters and recognition of the authorities. Another heart-warming moment was when the students helped Leo Wolinsky identify the house that belonged to his family’s friends.

The visit was an incredible example on how sharing stories lead to reconnecting ties. To get a glimpse of the tour check out the photos and watch a short TV material prepared by the local branch of Polish National Television (the material is available in Polish only, starts at 12:12 and ends on 15:00).

September 13th, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

From August 7th-11th, 2017, Forum for Dialogue’s representatives participated in the Powell Holocaust Summer Institute, made possible by the vision and investment of the Powell Family Foundation, at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle WA, USA. Julia Machnowska, the coordinator of Forum’s flagship project School of Dialogue, and Katarzyna Łaziuk, a Leader of Dialogue from Mińsk Mazowiecki, took part in a seminar focused on exchanging experiences and knowledge concerning the methodology of teaching about the Holocaust as means of fighting against prejudice and discrimination.

The program included a variety of excellent lectures, workshops, discussions and site visits, including, among others, an inspiring conversation with Alexandra Zapruder, author of Salvaged Pages, about using diaries and personal narratives in the classroom, as well as a great lecture by Tatyana Tsyrlina-Spady about Janusz Korczak and his legacy today. Another highlight of the Summer Institute was the meeting with Tom Ikeda from Densho, a grassroots organization educating about the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

For their part, Forum’s delegates had an opportunity to share their unique experiences and highlight the Polish perspective on the program’s main topics. Katarzyna Łaziuk gave an account of the projects created by her students and residents of Mińsk Mazowiecki. Julia Machnowska presented the School of Dialogue program, focusing on its impact on social change in Poland.

Both participants from Poland feel that the seminar was an amazing opportunity for mutual learning, sharing experiences and broadening one’s horizon thanks to the global context of the program.

Julia Machnowska and Katarzyna Łaziuk’s participation in Powell Holocaust Summer Institute was enabled by the generous support of Nancy Powell and Carol Heller.

photo: K.Łaziuk, J.Machnowska

August 22nd, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

August 1st, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

The week-long visit of American Jewish Committee delegation to Poland – part of the Polish Jewish Exchange Program – has just finished. Our partners from the AJC arrived in Warsaw on July 16th and had the next few days filled with visits to the city’s important Jewish sites and meetings, among others with Anna Azari, Ambassador of Israel to Poland, Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Program Director of the Core Exhibition of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, representatives of Warsaw Jewish community, and home hospitality evening with the Polish alumni of the Polish Jewish Exchange Program, which was also attended by Adam Bodnar, Polish Commissioner for Human Rights.

From Warsaw the delegation left for Lublin, where the participants were hosted by The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre. Afterwards they visited Bełżec Museum and Memorial and met with Ewa Koper, Leader of Dialogue who works there. The next day, they had an opportunity to see The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa, Łańcut Synagogue, enjoyed a tour of Kraków’s Kazimierz Jewish Quarter and dinner with Robert Gądek of Kraków Jewish Culture Festival. Their stay ended with a study visit to the Memorial and Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Shabbat dinner at Kraków Jewish Community Centre.

Project carried out as part of the Polish/Jewish Exchange Program in collaboration with American Jewish Committe, Polish Embassy in Washington, and with the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

photo J.Szkarłat

July 25th, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

We are pleased to announce that Kamil Mrozowicz, a Leader of Dialogue, has received Forum’s personal development scholarship financed by David and Anna Dlugie Kliger Fund.

Kamil comes from Kucze Wielkie, a village near the town of Jedwabne. As a young man he read Jan T. Gross’s “Neighbors”, which forced him to confront the difficult history of his little homeland. Ever since, he has felt it is his duty to preserve and educate about the atrocities of the Jedwabne pogrom, as well as the rich Jewish life before the war.

With typical modesty, Kamil remarks that the thing he could be really proud of is still ahead of him. He wishes to organize an international educational youth project involving students from Jedwabne and Israel, but worries that his limited English might be an obstacle. We hope that the scholarship will enable him to realize his dream.

Kamil Mrozowicz - zdjęcie
photo M.Śmiarowski

July 14th, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

We’ve just finished the summer meeting of young leaders of dialogue in Suwałki (July 4th-9th). Our group took part in warm up activities (such as canoeing in the beautiful countryside of north-east tip of Poland) and workshops at “Pogranicze” (Borderland) multicultural center in Sejny. Afterwards Forum’s young leaders found out about less known facet of Polish tradition of religious liberty during a meeting with a family of the Old Believers (Russian Orthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical practices as they existed prior to the reforms of the second half of the 17th century; many were forced to emigrate after being persecuted by the Russian authorities). Later they explored the heritage of another three groups that formed the cultural landscape of the Suwałki region: Jews, Lithuanians and Polish Catholics. Since Forum believes in putting theory into practice, the young leaders first designed and later conducted workshops for children attending the Catholic Intellectuals Club’s summer camp.

photo J.Szkarłat

July 10th, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Leave a Comment

Richard Weintraub, a descendant of Polish Jews and a participant of Forum’s 2014 Study Visit to Poland, came back to visit School of Dialogue students in Krempna. This was the second time Richard visited Poland to search for information about his family. In 2015 together with his family he visited School of Dialogue students in Maków Mazowiecki.

During the presentation of their findings, students and their guest established a deep connection. Later the students and Richard drove to Hałbowska mountain pass. At the site of a mass grave were over 1200 local Jews lost their lives during the war, the students lit candles in a gesture of respect and commemoration. After saying goodbye to the students, Richard went to another small town, Kotań, where he visited a small Orthodox church. When he explained to the keeper of the church that his family came from the area, the keeper of the church exclaimed: “You’re a local!”

It is extremely moving to see this type of interfaith and intercultural dialogue happen.

We encourage you to watch this short documentary featuring fragments from Richard Weintraub’s first roots visit to Poland in 2015.

June 27th, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

We have finished the Polish Jewish Exchange Program visit to the U.S. organized in cooperation with the AJC. Our delegation went to Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York and had their week filled with meetings, site visits including United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as home hospitality and cultural events. Among the highlights of the trip were meetings with AJC staff, regional and national board members, as well as Rabbi Andy Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs, and AJC CEO David Harris. The group also met with Polish Deputy Chief of Mission, Paweł Kotowski, and Lukas Fuksa, President of the Polish American Leadership Political Action Committee. The program offered ample opportunities for less formal conversations during lunches and dinners, including one with a Holocaust survivor, Aron Elster. In New York Polish delegates were welcomed to a Shabbat dinner hosted by AJC members, and could enjoy a jazz concert.

June 19th, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

It is difficult to talk with teenagers about the Holocaust in a way that is both sensitive and frank. But George Elbaum, a Warsaw-born Holocaust Survivor, who has met with School of Dialogue alumni in Błonie, Mszczonów and Grójec, knows how to captivate his young audience.

The author of “Neither Yesterdays, Nor Tomorrows. Vignettes from the Holocaust,” published in Polish with the help of Forum for Dialogue, moved his audience and inspired a lively Q&A session afterwards. So lively, in fact, that the meeting in Mszczonów took an hour more than was planned! Students lined up to have their copy of the book signed.

After reading that he likes sweets, the students from Grójec baked their visitor a Polish cheesecake, which he mentions in his book. The students in Błonie offered him handmade ceramic cups filled to the brim with marzipan – his favorite.

George Elbaum was visiting Poland in the company of his wife and son, who took part in the Jewish tour of Grójec prepared by the students in the School of Dialogue program.

“It’s a lesson of real history that someone lived, and it allows us to believe and understand what someone else, who lived there and then, went through. We can hear it first-hand.”

Meeting participant

June 3rd, 2017

Posted In: EN News 2017

Next Page »