In the fall of 2017, a group of participants in a study trip to Poland organized by Forum for Dialogue visited students from Jan Kochanowski Junior High School in Grabów, alumni of the 2016 School of Dialogue Program. For some of the guests it wasn’t the first meeting with the School of Dialogue, therefore they were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet another group of young experts in the local Jewish history. Despite the difficult access to sources about the Jewish community of their town, the junior high students from Grabów rose to the challenge!
The meeting first took place in the school building where all the participants were able to meet each other. Starting with the icebreaker activities directed by the Forum educator, they were all able to realize how much they have in common. Afterwards the guests were invited to a walking tour around Grabów presenting the fate of the local Jewish community which before the WWII constituted half of the town population. The walking tour guided by the junior high students from Grabów included the kindergarten for Polish and Jewish children, the market square where the pre-war life was once concentrated with houses owned by the Jewish residents, and the site of former mikveh.
The most spectacular stop of the tour was the building of the synagogue that still stands in Grabów. After the war, this large building with typical synagogue features was used as a furniture warehouse for the local cooperative, and today it is closed because of the threat of the building’s collapse. The students managed to find photographs presenting polychromy on the inside of the synagogue. They showed these images in front of the building. With the help of Rabbi Wayne Franklin, who participated in the study trip, it was possible to read faded inscriptions on the interior walls. This was the last psalm from the Book of Psalms. This was the moment when the hosts could learn something from the guests – they were able to jointly discover a new part of the history of Jews from Grabów.
There was also a time for a break and refreshments prepared by the students in the school premises. The guests expressed their gratitude and hope that the meeting with junior high students from Grabów gave them. “Their enthusiasm and pride in their work brings great joy to us,” said one of the tour participants.
The meeting with junior high students from Grabów ended with a visit to the Jewish cemetery. Today, there is only a sign with wording Jewish cemetery. Area protected by law. Please respect the burial site of the dead that reminds of its former function. The guests and the students recited the prayer for the dead, honoring this place of eternal rest.
After the visit to Poland, the study trip participants recalled the meeting with students from Grabów and emphasized that the visit in Grabów was a highlight of their tour. In a letter sent to the school by one of the participants, she writes: „Since I have returned to Israel, I can’t stop telling my friends about my wonderful visit to Poland and about the unique and heartwarming visit we had at your school with you and the children.”