Between July 18-25, Forum for Dialogue in partnership with Facing History and Ourselves and Polish Embassy in Washington organized the Facing History and Ourselves study trip to Poland. The program of the trip included meetings and discussions with experts in the areas of Polish/Jewish relations, as well as historical and contemporary situation of Poland. The group visited Warsaw, Lublin, the Majdanek Memorial and Museum, and also Zamość, where participants met with the School of Dialogue students and Leader of Dialogue Marek Kołcon.
On Friday, July 22, Facing History and Ourselves educators held a Shabbat dinner in Szczebrzeszyn with Leaders of Dialogue and Alumni of the School of Dialogue. They sang, bonded, and welcomed the Sabbath together in what many participants called the highlight of the trip.
“As a Jewish person studying the Holocaust, the horror can be overwhelming. The horror builds anger and disappointment. I came to Poland expecting to feel all of that and more. But I never expected to feel hopeful. I never expected to meet young people who are working so hard to preserve something so precious. Thank you for teaching me, inspiring me, and reminding me that despite how bleak the world can seem, there is always hope for connection.“
On Friday April 24, 2015, the participants in the School of Dialogue program in Zamość met with a group of representatives of Italian Jewish community who came to Poland at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The School of Dialogue program completed at the school only one day before. The guests from Italy where therefore the first to take part in the walking tour prepared by the students! The walking tour around Jewish sites usually goes through an old part of the town. But the students of the Second High School, together with their teacher Marek Kołcon, prepared a tour nearby their school, the New Town, where the ghetto was located and its history still rests undiscovered. Even the local priest got involved in the project and lent a megaphone. This allowed not only the guests from Italy to take part in the tour but also the passersby. The guests were impressed by the efforts put in the preparation of the walking tour. Some of them are teachers in Jewish schools. Maybe in the future they will visit Zamość with their students…
On Thursday, July 3 the nine-person Forum for Dialogue team took part in the first official Bar Mitzvah in 75 years in the ”Synagogue” Center in Zamość. Approximately 80 people attended the Bar Mitzvah of Jake Wisnik, led by Rabbi David Holtz. One year ago Jake’s parents, Robert and Eva, attended a study trip to Poland organized by the Forum, which was an amazing experience for them.
“Forum for Dialogue is directly responsible for discovering the depth of our Polish roots and for making what was an impossible thought- that an American Reform Jewish family having a Bar Mitzvah in Poland, land of our ancestors for over 1000 years, could become a reality. The Forum has literally changed my life, Eva’s life and now our children’s lives in a deep and powerful way,” said Robert during the ceremony.
The Wisniks are also connected with Zamość by their personal history – Eva’s father, Abram Szlak was born in Zamość in 1935. Had it not been for World War 2, he would have become a Bar Mitzvah in the very synagogue where Jake became one. Following the Bar Mitzvah, students from the C.K. Norwid High School who had participated in Forum for Dialogue’s School of Dialogue program, gave a walking tour of Zamość’s Jewish sites.
Eva Wisnik with her husband Robert participated in study trip to Poland organized by Forum for Dialogue in autumn 2013. As a result of the visit rose an idea of Jake Wisnik’s Bar Mitzvah in Zamość synagogue.
Check how Fox News World covered Bar Mitzvah.