In September 2016 Forum for Dialogue organized the first Canadian study trip to Poland. After three intensive days in Warsaw participants traveled to Lublin, Radom and Krakow. It was in Radom that our guests met with local high school students and together walked around Jewish sights of the town. It was not the first time that the Nicolaus Copernicus High School hosted our group. However, this meeting was even more special, since the participants were members of Beit Radom synagogue in Toronto – a synagogue that was founded by Jewish emigrants form Radom in the early 20th century. For many trip participants, the highlight of the trip was a Shabbat dinner organized in Radom, which gathered trip participants, students and local Leaders of Dialogue. An evening full of reflection and joy.
For the first time in decades, on April 19, 2016 a Passover Seder was organized in Radom as part of the Jewish Culture Festival “Trace”. This moving interfaith event was a result of cooperation of Forum study trip participants Sharon Grosfeld and Hilda Chazanovitz, whose families come from Radom, with Zbigniew Wieczorek, one of the participants in our Leaders of Dialogue program. They met last year, during our Friends of the Forum journey to Poland.
Earlier in the day, before the Seder, guests from the U.S. were taken on a walking tour following the footsteps of Jews of Radom by students of a local high school that took part in our School of Dialogue program a few years back.
For us at the Forum, it was inspiring to see our various programs bear fruit in this one amazing moment. Take a look at this short clip about Passover Seder organized in Radom for the first time in decades.
Between June 27 and July 5, twenty-four friends of Forum for Dialogue from the U.S. and Australia joined us for what was an incredible trip, our first-ever Friends of the Forum Journey to Poland. Our group from Friends of the Forum arrived in Radom on July 1 in the morning to meet the students from Nicolaus Copernicus High School, considered to be one of the most active Schools of Dialogue. For Irving Kempner, Sharon Grosfeld and Hilda Chazanovitz this town has a very special meaning because of their family roots. For them and for other group participants walking around Radom tracing the Jewish past was very important.
Friends of the Forum journey to Poland was also an opportunity to meet Leaders of Dialogue: activists from all across Poland, devoted to teaching about and preserving the Jewish heritage in their towns and cities.
In Radom we met with devoted teachers who have been researching and spreading the knowledge about the city’s Jewish community for years: Ewa Kutyła, Agnieszka Brzeska-Pająk and Zbigniew Wieczorek. On July 1 they all sat down to talk with the descendants of Radom Jews who were among the participants of the Friends of the Forum trip. They discussed their motivations, their responsibility and their sense of purpose in what they do. Our guests responded with declarations of what it means for them to meet such people in Radom today.
We would like to thank Brenna Cukier for producing this short movie.
A meeting with high school students from Radom, participants in the School of Dialogue educational program, made a huge impression on the study visit participants hosted by Forum for Dialogue. It was even more meaningful for one of the members of the delegation, as her family comes from Radom.
Members of the New York Board of the Facing History and Ourselves, Lori and Mark Fife, came to Radom where Lori Fife’s father was born. They were hosted by the students of Nicolas Copernicus High School, a school that since 2011 has been continuing activities initiated by the School of Dialogue program. The students organized a two-hour long tour of the town, during which the participants visited houses where Lori Fife’s family once lived, and the monument commemorating the synagogue of Radom which was destroyed by the Nazis during the German occupation.
On April 26, on the initiative of a long-time friend of the Forum Irv Kempner from Newton in Massachusetts, a group of American adult participants of the March of the Living from Chicago, Miami, Boston and other cities visited Radom. Students from Nicolaus Copernicus High School No 1, who continue actively the School of Dialogue program, hosted participants of the March and showed them the Jewish historical buildings of their town. The students guided their guests around Radom, showing them not only the usual sites of their tour, but also helped some of the participants to find places connected with their family history. The visit allowed the Polish youth and their Jewish guests to have honest discussions.
On April 6, 2013, a very special meeting took place in Radom between a group of high school students and Irving Kempner from Boston, who visited Poland to participate in the March of the Living. In the course of his visit, Irving Kempner decided to visit Radom, which is the birthplace of his mother Maryla Freidenreich. She was born before World War II and survived the Holocaust along with her younger sister.
The meeting was hosted by students from Nicolaus Copernicus High School No.1 in Radom, who participated in 2011 School of Dialogue workshops that Irving Kempner had sponsored. Together with their teachers, Agnieszka Brzeska and Ewa Kutyła, students took their guest on a walking tour of Jewish and contemporary sites in Radom. The tour route also included sites connected to Irving Kempner’s family history – the house where Freidenreich sisters had lived, tenements housing shops run by family relatives and schools his mother Maryla attended – Jan Kochanowski Public School and a private middle school run by Maria Gajl.
In exchange for the guided tour, the guest shared with the students stories his mother told him about growing up in Radom and the details of his turbulent family history during World War II. Visiting School of Dialogue participants allowed Irving Kempner to see the sites he had only heard about in family stories. After his visit to Radom, he admitted that this very special meeting with Radom high school students sparked a personal connection to the town that he will cherish for the rest of his life.
On November 14, 2012 a group Jewish community leaders from the United States visited Radom as part of their study tour to Poland organized by Forum for Dialogue. The visit was especially important for one of the participants – Sharon Grosfeld – whose father was born in that city.
Guests met with graduates of School of Dialogue program from Nicolaus Copernicus High School No.1 in Radom and their teachers Agnieszka Brzeska and Ewa Kutyła. Following an ice-breaker workshops at the school, students led a walking tour through Jewish Radom for their guests. The route had been developed by the students in the course of School of Dialogue workshops. Upon Sharon Grosfeld’s request, the tour began with a visit in an arms factory that had been the workplace of her father and other family members prior to deportations to concentration camps. Next stop for the group was the renovated Jewish cemetery and a walk through the town’s streets while listening to stories about their Jewish residents and everyday Jewish life. Students acted as hosts and presented their guests with their discoveries, using archival photographs as visual aids.
Guests were greatly impressed by the energy, involvement, language skills and factual knowledge demonstrated by the high school students. Afterwards, Sharon Grosfeld wrote: “I am grateful to the students, teachers and principals of Nicolaus Copernicus High School, who not only participated in the School of Dialogue program, but also had tremendous impact on issues related to restoring the memory of Radom’s Jewish residents and their prewar life. These students are ambassadors of reconciliation and a hope for a peaceful future.”
While planning the visit to Poland of Norman Eisen, US Ambassador to Czech Republic, the US Embassy in Warsaw approached the Forum for Dialogue to arrange an event with students who took part in our School of Dialogue program. On November 3rd 2011, the students of Nicolaus Copernicus High School hosted the international delegation: US Ambassador Norman Eisen with his family, US Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein and accompanying staff from the US Embassy in Warsaw.
The delegation was guided through Radom’s Jewish sites by the students, on the basis of the tour they prepared for their fellow schoolmates during School of Dialogue workshops. The group visited the area of the former ghetto, the site where the synagogue used to stand, Jewish cemetery and many other places important to Radom’s pre-war Jewish community. The event was widely covered by national and local media.