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    at Forum for Dialogue?

The week-long Forum for Dialogue Study Visit to Poland for our guests from United States has just finished. This trip, chaired by Forum’s longtime Friend Lisa Van Allsburg, was a chance for Jewish visitors from the US to learn about modern Poland and Polish/Jewish dialogue, but most importantly to meet School of Dialogue students and Leaders of Dialogue who discover, preserve, document, and share knowledge about Jewish heritage in Poland and cultivate the memory of Jewish communities once populating their towns and villages.

The study trip was opened with a dinner attended by Forum’s President Andrzej Folwarczny. Next days, participants toured Warsaw and its Jewish sites. Program’s tight schedule included meetings with experts on Jewish history and modern Poland and in-depth site visit to the POLIN Museum as well.

After leaving Warsaw the group  headed to Lesser Poland province in southern Poland. In Brzesko, they visited Nicolaus Copernicus High School, a continuing School of Dialogue. After getting to know each other during a introduction workshop run by a Forum educator, which included a performance of a song written and performed by students in memory of the Brzesko Jews, the students took our group to the local Jewish cemetery where they lid candles and shared very touching words. Afterwards some of the students joined the group on a walking tour around Jewish sites of the town, during which they provided insightful and emotional stories of the Jewish inhabitants of Brzesko. Participants of the tour expressed that they were amazed by “students’ dedication and devotion to discovering and restoring Jewish heritage in their town” and that they were “wise and learned beyond their years.”

photos by H. Gospodarczyk and M.Usiekniewicz

In Nowy Sącz, a town famous for its Art Nouveau architecture and once-vibrant Jewish life, they met with Leaders of Dialogue from Shtetl of Tsanz. Named after the Yiddish word for the town of Nowy Sącz, this grassroots organization appeared almost organically, gathering people of different professions and talents inspired by the town’s rich Jewish history, a need to preserve and educate about it, and a desire to make contact with descendants of local Jews from all over the world. After the amazing tour of the town guided by Shtetl of Tsanz’s Artur Franczak and Łukasz Połomski, the participants and Leaders together enjoyed a Shabbat dinner.

We finished the program with a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and a tour of Jewish Krakow accompanied by another round of meetings with experts on Polish/Jewish relations and their complicated history.