In the summer of 2018, Alexandra Richie and students of the Summer School for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans visited Radzymin. The American students were able to discover a town where before World War II more than half of the population was Jewish, and what is the town landscape today in the context of Holocaust memory. The group met with Szymon Cymer – a graduate of the Radzymin School of Dialogue 2014, Young Leader of Dialogue and current School of Dialogue educator. He told the guests about his journey from participating in the School of Dialogue program as a high school student to being a student of history and working as an educator in the field of local Jewish history. This is not the first group he hosted at the School of Dialogue in Radzymin – in 2014 he was one of the students involved in the meeting with the group of the international educational organization – Facing History and Ourselves.
Radzymin, known mainly for its history of the war in 1920, presented its rich history of Jewish diversity, both Hasidism and Zionism. The group also visited the most important site connected with the pre-war Jewish community in Radzymin – the place where the cemetery and Jewish school once were located, the mikvah building or the rabbi’s house. The meeting allowed the participants from the Summer School to see not only the war history, but also the former everyday life, preserved in the town landscape until today.
The program is co-financed by Malka and Pinek Krystal Scholarship Fund.
In May 2014 an international educational organization, Facing History and Ourselves, brought a delegation of its board members and senior staff to Poland. The Forum helped program their weeklong visit. During the trip, we could showcase the fruits of School of Dialogue’s activities by bringing the delegation to five towns where the School of Dialogue program had taken place.
See below how one of the participants recalls the meeting and tour that the School of Dialogue participants provided in Radzymin:
“Finally arriving at the school felt like a breath of fresh air. Students were everywhere welcoming us and one could feel their expectation for our arrival.
After the introductions by the educators from the Forum for Dialogue, we were welcomed by the head of school and many of the teachers could not be there since students were just starting their oral exams.
We quickly were led through a series of fun getting acquainted warm up activities. One of the more interesting that our small group participated in was creating a map of symbols for Poland and the students creating one of the US. The students map of the US included big letters spelling the word TOLERANCE. Of course this led us in a discussion of the issues of intolerance in our country and their own perceptions.
What a wonderful introduction these activities provided for our walk through their town and learning what they had uncovered about he Jews of Radzymin…
We began our walk and students each took part in telling what they had learned in their research about the Jewish Community.
For the rest of our time together we walked to several sites that gave evidence to the vibrant Jewish Community that that been in Radzymin since the 17th century. Of the 5,000 residents, 3,000 had been Jewish. On our walk we came to a spot that had been a cheder – a school for young boys who wanted to be rabbis. Then we came to an open meadow that had been a Jewish cemetery. There was a marking of a place where a famous beloved rabbi had been buried.
We then walked to Kilinskiego Street the main Jewish Street. We passed the house that Isac Bashieves Singer had lived in for two years.
We saw the last house inhabited by someone who had been Jewish and then we walked to an area that was the Ghetto where the Jews of Radzymin were rounded up. Most of the Jewish residents perished at Treblinka or were killed right at the train station as they were gathered there. Then the Nazis burned most of the town.
The students described how they discovered these things by researching the town’s archives, interviewing a historian that had lived in the town. Grandparents did not offer much information when they tried to interview them. These students research gave us a picture of a vibrant Jewish Community that vanished during the Holocaust.
In the end, I was left with the question – how will these students be changed by this experience?
How are they ‘custodians of memory’?“