A Space for Dialogue

Reconnecting Ties

When we were starting the Forum for Dialogue 20 years ago, we believed that Polish/Jewish relations were too important to leave to the politicians. That principle is more vital today than ever. With your involvement that reaches beyond the current obstacles, we will continue to build on the remarkable achievements of that last two decade.

All over the world there are Polish-born Holocaust Survivors and their descendants, while all over Poland there are people who cherish Polish/Jewish dialogue. We need a way to express our mutual concern and support for one another. This is why we are creating this online space for dialogue that will allow us to listen to each other. Tell one another that now is not the time to give up.

Join us in rebuilding and forming new connections between modern Poland and the Jewish community around the world.

Your messages

Forum for Dialogue changed me and opened my eyes. Before I participated in the School of Dialogue program four years ago, I did not know anything about Jews and I did not care to know. However, the workshops sparked my curiosity that has been continuously growing ever since. I started reading, asking, conducting my own research and I felt for myself, how difficult this topic is. And how important! And I am just one of the hundreds or thousands of program graduates  who know and feel this. Thank you, Forum!

Marcin Krotla, Kraków

A few days ago, My Friend Nionek Beck passed away. He was 94 years old. He spent his childhood and part of his youth in Nowy Targ. He lost his mother Ruchel, father Chune and sister Sala in the Holocaust. After the war, he emigrated to Palestine, never to return to Poland. I got to know him, as for over a decade I am recreating life stories of Jewish residents of Nowy Targ. I was Nionek’s first contact with a country, in which he experienced immense goodness as well as immense evil. His astonishment and then happiness to have someone interested in recalling his family story will stay with me forever and serve as inspiration. My Dear “Nowytargers” – you have given me your stories, trust and friendship, becoming a very important part of my life. In this difficult time I want to assure you that I will do everything  I can to ensure you become an important part of Polish collective memory.

Karolina Panz, Raba Wyżna

Learning about interpersonal relations is always difficult, especially if these involve powerful emotions and experiences. Attempts at dividing, splitting and changing history are painful. For a long time, Polish/Jewish relations kept improving. We had not forgotten. Neither us nor you. However, we were trying to build something new on the rubble of the old. Let us not get carried away by political games, but do what is right and do good.

Wiktoria Grabowska, Izbica Kujawska

My Dear Jewish Brothers, I am Polish, my name is Małgorzata. I was born in May of 1968. I learned about the anti-Semitic events from two months before my birth as an adult, in the course of my education. My cheeks were painfully red due to the shame and anger I felt – I am a political scientist by education. My Dear Brothers – you are invaluable to me, be among us. Dworzec Gdański train station, March 8, 2018. I will be there.

Małgorzata Piotrowska, Komorów

I have been following the latest events in my home country with great sadness. The 50th anniversary of March 1968 is approaching and I feel like that gloomy period in our past has been revived with the approval of the ruling class. It is sad to see some of my compatriots so blinded that they do not realize we have been living together in this land and fighting for it together since the Piast dynasty… Poland is our shared homeland!

Marzena Makarska, Szczecin

I would like you to know that politicians’ actions to a large extent do not reflect the views of many ordinary people. I am ashamed that the country I live in is represented in a way that is offensive to the Jewish community. I carry my homeland in my heart; in my homeland, everyone is equal and worthy of respect.

Klaudia Lewandowska, Warszawa

It is with regret that I observe a surge in anti-Jewish moods under falsely understood defense of Polishness. Pandora’s box had been opened, so let us do whatever we can to look at the difficult past with feeling and understanding. We need a broad perspective, without justifications, but with comprehension. Dear Jewish friends – there are still good-willed and kind-hearted people in Poland who support working towards dialogue.

Dariusz Walerjański, Zabrze

I am a teacher in Szczekociny’s School Complex and for the last 10 years I have been working together with Organization of Jewish Szczekociners on a Jewish Culture festival. In 2008, two Jewish women born in Szczekociny attended the festival – Jadzia Cukerman and Cela Szwarcbaum. Almost from the outset, very close ties were established between us. Jadzia and Cela became my older friends. We would visit one another – in Lelów and Szczekociny during the festival and in their homes in Israel. When I visited Cela in her Israeli home, I realized something very important; namely, that Cela had taken Szczekociny with her. Jadzia and Cela would say many times that through what we do they were able to return to Szczekociny, to their home. They returned not alone, but together with their families. They did not live to see the festival in its 10th edition, but their relatives were there. I deeply believe that these meetings had impacted us all: Jewish Szczekociners and their attitudes towards Poland, Szczekociny’s residents and their attitudes towards the town’s past, as well as the festival organizers themselves. I am convinced that there is a deep meaning in commemorative work, dialogue and alliance.

Mirosław Skrzypczyk, Lelów/Szczekociny

18 years ago we visited Pińczów – before the war, 70% of its residents were Jewish. Memories and an old synagogue building are all that remain of Pińczów’s Jews. We walked without uttering a word. My wife was in tears. “They were here and now they are gone” she said, remembering her family of survivors. The loss was immense, but I am happy that you are here, that you survived. And I am happy that all around the world you build new cities. Thank you.

Bartosz Sokoliński, Warszawa

Dear Friends, Our Older Brothers in Faith! The latest events have made me interested in your history. I studied many testimonies and I am deeply moved by the immense suffering that you have gone through. I am sorry that Poles were also those causing the evil. Do not let the evil deeds and words erect a wall between us today. Let us not cease in our quest for friendship and truth. I like, respect and value you all. God bless you all.

Monika Oleszczuk, Warszawa

Although I was never given a chance to know you, I miss you, my extraordinary and wonderful Jewish friends and neighbors. As a Pole, I feel lacking and impoverished without you. In these difficult moments when fools and cynics try to divide us, I am with you with all my heart and thoughts.

Lech Dulian, Kraków

I am deeply thankful for the years I spent working in a small countryside parish where I met my new friends, descendants of local residents who survived the Holocaust. I have experienced a lot of warmth in these friendships, I heard many tragic stories. God allowed me to help family members separated during the war re-unite. I believe this will not vanish, as goodness is eternal. Only goodness is eternal.

Fr. Rafał Figiel, Świdwin

Mr. Roman, Marek, Sondra, Genevieve, Nahoma, William  – I could name more of you. It is thanks to you that today I am the changed person that I am, it is thanks to you I have the courage to stand up to evil. It is thanks to you that I carry less anger and more hope within me. Mr.Roman, you taught me that I should invest in the young generation. My profession is a beautiful one – I am a teacher and I know that power is in the youth. I would like the politicians to stop and listen to my students for a moment. After listening to a witness’ testimony, my student Ala shared her reflections in a competition entry essay, repeating like a mantra Jan Karski’s words to avoid disliking people, that petty wickedness leads to great crimes. This is a simple truth of life. We know this truth. So does Ala. In these difficult moments remember about Poland, Ala and me. We are on your side.

Katarzyna Łaziuk, Mińsk Mazowiecki

I am depressed by the intensity of negative emotions both in Poland as well as among Jews. But this does not mean that there are no empathetic and good-willed people around us – in Poland, Israel or anywhere else. I meet them all the time. We, the good-willed, are currently on the defensive side. But only we can stop this absurd war. How? By relentlessly working towards reconciliation and mutual understanding.

The sense of danger is spreading among my Jewish circles. For the first time in their lives, young people are starting to think whether to consider emigration. We feel that the climate is not unlike the one in March 1968. Expressions of solidarity give us comfort and I am very thankful for them. I am even more thankful to those who in their hometowns – and through this platform – demonstrate that they do not succumb to this atmosphere of hatred.

Stanisław Krajewski, Warszawa

I have been contributing to the Polish/Jewish dialogue for a few decades. In this time period, we learned to talk with each other without prejudice and stereotypes. We made friends and have been working together to commemorate the victims of Dębica’s ghetto. We teach our children about our shared history. We published Dębica’s Yizkor book and now we are trying together to renovate the local synagogue. This puts an obligation on us and for this reason we wish to persevere. Dialogue is the most important!

Ireneusz Socha, Dębica

Reconciliation demands candor and the right to go astray and the right to experience emotions; the latter, however, should not overshadow facts nor their meaning. Goodwill on both sides and an understanding of the mutual determinants are required. But what is most needed is a sincere perspective, which can only be obtained through relentless refuting of myths and accrued lies, building bridges and inquisitive searching for truth. As well as through the ordinary human need.

Joanna Rózga, Warszawa

I do not wish to claim that statements and attitudes presented by politicians are of no significance, I am very aware it is quite to the contrary. I also do not wish to claim that I am not affected by these statements and attitudes at all. To the contrary – when I hear what some of the most important people in the country say about Polish/Jewish past and present, I feel pain. My heart aches. However, I want to make it very clear that their power to spread ignorance, conceit, megalomania and aggression is limited. Now I see that they have an almost insignificant impact on the views and attitudes represented by my students with whom I discuss these matters time and again. Young Poles are open, they seek truth and want to be critical – also towards those whose voices – with the help of the media – are best-heard in Poland today.

Anna Włodek, Tarnowskie Góry

Dear Jewish friends from Israel and the United States! How much I would like to speak and yell out, but how hard it is to utter anything. Thank you for the time we spent together in Poland. For the opportunity to be together and to enjoy this time. I smile at you, although it is so hard to smile for me now. I deeply believe that the Lord has his plan and that in His plan there is still space for truth, goodness and beauty.

Wacław Wierzbieniec, Rzeszów

For certain the messages posted here reach far fewer recipients than statements made by politicians, yet I believe this should not be a deterrent. I am probably younger than most people on this platform, but I wish to vouch for myself and my colleagues that we reject all prejudice and are very much aware of the many wrongdoings caused by Poles to Jews. And we apologize for them.

Dominika Nalepa, Katowice

Dear friends, don’t let them divide and separate us! This is our shared history! We have painstakingly worked towards rebuilding mutual relations and trust! No political chutzpah can destroy that. Difficult topics should be discussed, conclusions should be drawn from mistakes, but first and foremost – we should have respect for each other and demonstrate humbleness in the face of history.

Małgorzata Grabska, Busko-Zdrój

My friends! Lola, Salomon, Hilda, Sharon, Jerzyk, Roy, Shalom, and many others! The meeting we had serves as an example to the whole world of a bond based on love for one’s homeland and ancestors, who created a common space for all of us. No stupid politician can separate us from our thoughts, feelings, and memory! We are one in our mutual experiences, in our closeness and understanding. Filled with concern and shame –

Zbigniew Wieczorek, Radom

I appreciate the input of the Jewish community in our culture. I regret and feel pain for what had happened! No words can express my grief, but believe me, it is sincere. I feel you are my kin and we are all children of the same God. I am happy to see the Jewish community being reborn in my town and I am very much rooting for them.

Agnieszka Rybinska, Wrocław

When 20 years ago I saw the remains of a mezuzah on an old door, I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a long and sometimes difficult journey. But also one that is interesting and immensely satisfying. I spent these years learning history, working as part detective and part archeologist to uncover the lost Atlantis – my family town of Szczebrzeszyn. Translating the Yizkor Books, having hundreds of meetings, and exchanging thousands of emails with the descendants of our neighbors from before the Holocaust. And just as I was starting to think that the change we’ve been working for can finally be seen with the naked eye, when we’re finally safe in the European Union and NATO, it turned out that most of it was an illusion. That we need to work even harder. In the name of historical truth and mutual respect. For our children. We have to do it together, to support each other in times of doubt. Let us be there for each other!

Tomasz Pańczyk, Warszawa

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been working with wonderful people for whom good Polish-Jewish relations are a top priority. It turns out that patiently nurturing these relations in a spirit of truth can yield great results among both Jews and Poles. People who don’t necessarily deal with this relationship on a daily basis, and often harbor bad stereotypes about our coexistence, start to gradually understand the gravity of the issue. We have fostered this dialogue and will to find a common ground for many years. Ten years ago, we had no idea what would grow out of this seed. Today, we can behold a beautiful flower – thought still delicate one, and unable to exist on its own. I implore and encourage my friends, both Polish and Jewish, to not let this flower be stamped down. Let us nurture it like good gardeners so that it spreads and becomes a beautiful meadow. Shalom to all the people of good will.

Artur Bara, Biłgoraj

Relationships are built over the course of years, but can be destroyed in an instant. Let us not allow 20 years of building mutual trust, listening to each other’s stories, and reforging bonds between Poles and Jews to go to waste. We care about what you and your ancestors went through, and also about what you think of us – Poles. We want to build bridges based on truth and an open dialogue about difficult issues. We want to share our point of view with you. And tell you that you are important to us.

Ewa Rutkowska, Warszawa

My dear Jewish Friends, my entire family wishes to send you all our sympathy, admiration, and gratitude, but also our longing, compassion, and all the positive emotions one can feel for one’s fellow man. I want you to know that there are people in Poland, many people, for whom you aren’t just important – you’re also part of us. Of our culture, our language, our poetry, our architecture, our music, our landscapes. You are an inalienable part of being Polish. Let these positive feelings of many Poles triumph over the small-mindedness of anti-Semites. Do not let them overshadow us!

Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik, Warszawa

I had a very moving visit with students in a Forum for Dialogue project in Grójec, Poland in May 2014. I met students and teachers at Publiczne Gimnazjum and learned about their work to uncover the complicated and shocking Jewish history of their town. It was such a thoughtfully designed and powerful program – I know it helped those students’ see their own history and speak out about injustice.

Karen Kronick, Palo Alto, CA

I had the privilege to spend a half day in the city of Grojec when on a Facing History tour of Poland in May of 2014. We met with several local high school students and faculty for lunch and they movingly explained to us the Jewish history of this city and then guided us on a tour of significant buildings and landmarks (such as the Jewish cemetery) that made that history very real and meaningful.

Mel Kronick, Palo Alto, CA

One of our highlights of our visit to Poland with WPO, Michael Levy and Michael Shur was meeting Polish high school students through the School of Dialogue Program. These students were bright and displayed a sense of curiosity. They wanted to know our backgrounds as well as their own history. They walked us through their town and very proudly explained the role Jews played in their history.

Ralph & Sue Stern, Newport Beach, CA

As the immediate descendant of Radom Holocaust Survivors, I am grateful to all the participants of the Forum’s educational and leadership programs who have brought Jewish culture back to Radom. As a result, I visit Radom at least twice a year to replant my own family roots with the Jewish memory you have all returned to us. Thank you for restoring our faith in humanity.

Sharon Grosfeld, Dana Point, CA

As the Polish government embraces the prescriptive playbook expediting autocratic government control, as civil society is demonized and the Polish historical narrative twisted into something perversely forgetful and ignorant, efforts to educate and remind Polish youth of their history is per haps the most effective way to prevent the return of nativism and intolerance.

Kenneth Krushel, New York, NY

Dear Students and Teachers and All Participants of the Forum for Dialogue Program in Poland, I write to you from Chicago USA, as a very strong supporter of the program of the Forum for Dialogue, which we know you have supported and learned so much from. We had the good fortune and privilege of meeting you in your home town and of being escorted by you to see firsthand how well and enthusiastically you embraced the history of your town and of Poland, as it relates to the roll that your Jewish neighbors played and who so unfortunately, are no longer around. Thousands of people around the world are in awe of the relationships you built thru the Forum. We want to make sure that you know we all stand with you and the people of your town and the people of Poland during this unfortunate period. Its understandable you may feel threatened or betrayed. Throughout the ages there have been attempts to rewrite the truth and this is one such time. Please do not allow historical revisionism and distortions to influence what you know to be the truth. We pray that you will all be strong and stay true to the lessons you learned. Whatever we are able to do to back you up, we would like to try. With much love and respect,

Michael Levy, Chicago, IL

I made my first trip to Poland looking for a connection to my parents birthplace. What I found astonished me: a dynamic core of Polish people committed to uncovering shared history and rebuilding our relationships. Dear People of Heart and Vision: I cherish your welcome, your openness and your dedication to goodwill. We stand together through dark times, holding up the light.

Helena Lipstadt, Los Angeles, CA

At a time of hateful rhetoric, sadness and uncertainty, the Forum for Dialogue stands out in its heroic mission of bearing witness to the rich legacy of Polish Jewry-and the importance of uniting people for an honest, hopeful dialogue. My visit with the Forum and its educators was a highlight of my visit to Poland. Andrzej and his colleagues are brave voices for truth, justice and good. Thank you!

Nirit Harel, Tel Aviv

Dear Students, Please know that there are many people who believe in the work that you are doing. In 2011 I visited the town of Ulanov with Andrzej and Zuza and met students there who were restoring Jewish memory in that town. It is a day I will never forget. This work, as you know, is more important now than ever. Keep working. We must build a better future together for all our children.

Joanne Zamore, Arlington, VA

The trip with the Forum was a major highlight of my two-month trip to Poland, and the day we spent with the students was uplifting and enlightening. After traveling with the Forum, I lived in a small Polish city working on a play about Polish-Jewish relations. The Poles I worked with were kind, open-minded, and enthusiastic, and I was proud to call them my friends.

Joe Hendel, San Diego, CA/New York, NY

As the grandson of 2 Poles and as the nephew of a Polish Holocaust Survivor, my visit to Poland was extraordinarily moving. I was welcomed with open arms and I was overwhelmed to see the desire of Poles (young and old and in between) to preserve Poland’s Jewish heritage and to strengthen Poland’s relationship to the Jewish People. May you all continue to be a light in the darkness.

Alan J. Harris, Dobbs Ferry, NY

Friends, It is in these times when we must look for the light. I was so blessed to meet the amazing people of the Forum: educators, guides, teachers, students and friends. Thank you to all the courageous and steadfast who continue to work for peace, friendship, truth and understanding. I send you my heartfelt gratitude.

Susie Rosengarten, Milwaukee, WI

The history of Poland is full of pain and hope and the history of Jews in Poland is the same. Real hope today is manifested in the work of the Forum for Dialogue and the thousands of Polish youth they have engaged. The students deserve so much praise for embracing a challenging past, and by doing so, helping to make a new and more hopeful future for Poland.

Phil Musickant, Milwaukee, WI

In both of our countries we see situations where our students are better leaders than our politicians. It dismays us today but it should encourage us for the future.

Tamar Dorner, Newton, MA

The trip with my family to Lomza, the location of my grandfather’s birth and childhood, is one I will always remember with joy and appreciation. The students and teachers we met enthusiastically welcomed us, and presented their research with a sincere engagement that left my family and I with warmed hearts and beautiful memories. We are forever grateful.

Joshua Margolis, Glenwood Springs, CO

I visited Poland with 10 other Jewish educators from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the USA. Among us were descendants of Holocaust survivors. Our experiences with the children in Kzepice were extremely moving. We were touched to see that these students care about what happened to the Jews in their community. The highlight was hearing a girl sing Avinu Malkeynu outside the ruins of the synagogue.

Tziporah Altman-Shafer, Milwaukee, WI

It was just over a year ago that my children and I visited the home of our paternal grandparents, Kutno, Poland. A meeting was arranged by the Forum, but what greeted us was the full staff of the library, a brunch in our honor and a special Jewish focused exhibit. It was an unexpected “homecoming”. We felt safer and more welcome in Poland than elsewhere in Europe.

Richard Goldman, Boynton Beach, FL

My wife, Elly, and I will long remember our visit in 2012 to the School of DIalogue in Radom,. We especially recall one girl, whose grandparents revealed to her that her great-grandparents had hidden a Jewish boy during the war. This had been a family secret they felt had to be hidden, and now she could know of this heroism and take pride in it. Polish Jewish history was coming into the light.

Dan Wolf, Glendale, CA

I have had the privilege of visiting Poland three times. I recall vividly, with much pleasure, the students in the Forum’s SchooI for Dialogue who I met in Grodzisk Mazowietski, Checyny, and Grabow. I also remember the impressive adult Leaders of Dialogue I met in Warsaw, Rabka and Chrzanow. Thank you for creating strong relations between Jews and Christians in Poland. Keep up your great work!

Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Providence, RI

I can still see the poise and determination of the students in Pinczow (2013) as they brought back to life the world of Jewish members of their town before the Shoah. The critical work that Forum does with the students, the young educators and the communities that invite you in, helps educate a new generation. I am optimistic for the future in spite of current politics. With continued support.

Shoshanah Zaritt, Worcester, MA

As the son of Polish Holocaust survivors I cherish deeply the efforts and good will of so many Poles who have worked with such success to make their country an open, welcoming, cosmopolitan nation where Polish-Jewish history is studied and Polish-Jewish relations have been reborn and flourished. I am confident that the current controversy will only bring us closer, rather than further apart.

Daniel Turbow, Brooklyn, New York, NY

A visit to Poland in 1981 was so heartening. My grandparents had left Radom’s Jewish community 50 years earlier, and they feared for my safety. I found so many people acting on the biggest public questions profoundly. Liberal ideas about open inquiry, freedom of association and equal justice were in the air (and important to Solidarnosc’s rise and the throwing-off of Communism). Love that Poland.

John Zuraw, Oak Park, IL

The children I met in Osorov represented the best of humanity and Polish youth. They were kind, thoughtful, and proud. And they showed an unapologetic commitment to remembering the history of their town — the good and the bad — with hope for the future of their community and the their nation.

Bernie Kluger, Washington, DC