“For the past 11 years, Forum for Dialogue has supported Polish high school students in their efforts to discover the individual stories of people who once inhabited their communities. As a result, the School of Dialogue program has created an extensive group of local guides who specialize in Poland that was multiethnic as well as culturally and religiously diverse. You are the true custodians of memory of the recent local past, but by recovering this history, you achieve much more because the mission of the School of Dialogue is building connections between your towns and Jews from all over the world. You have become Ambassadors of Poland that is open, tolerant, and respectful of its Jewish heritage,” said the Mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski addressing the audience gathered at the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera to celebrate the 2018 School of Dialogue Gala.
The official closing of yet another year of the School of Dialogue program, which took place on February 26, 2019, was an opportunity to honor the participants and thank them for their hard work and dedication, as well as announce the winners of the competition for the best commemorative project.
The 2018 School of Dialogue Gala had an audience of over 1200 people, including students of the 40 schools who joined the program this year, students from the 20 schools who continue their involvement, as well as teachers, representatives of local and national authorities, journalists, artists, diplomats, and friends and allies of the Forum.
“The School of Dialogue program’s educational activities combat prejudice and lead to the creation of a new generation of self-reliant and confident Poles. Once again, I wanted to thank all the participants of today’s Gala as they represent courage and maturity.”
Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw
We were also honored to have the following guests at the Gala: Deputy Speaker of the Senate Bogdan Borusewicz, Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Anna Aazari, Australia’s Ambassador to Poland Paul Wojciechowski, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Poland Eric F. Green, Mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, and the Chairman of the Forum Council Henryk Wujec, while the presence of the Gala’s special guests, Survivors and Righteous living in Poland reflected one of the School of Dialogue’s chief tenants, i.e. fostering intergenerational dialogue.
In 2018, 40 new schools joined the School of Dialogue network, while 23 other schools continued the work begun in previous years. The Gala is first and foremost an opportunity to recognize the School of Dialogue students for the unbelievable effort in preparing projects commemorating their local Jewish communities. This year we sought to acknowledge the best and most thought-through projects in four categories.
The award for “Impact on Local Community” went to Ziemia Kujawska School Complex in Przemystka. In the justification of their decision, the jury wrote: “One of the School of Dialogue elements is a public walking tour, but rare is the school that stops at just that. You have organized so many additional programs without losing any of the quality. You’ve organized a workshop for kids focusing on Jewish holidays and traditions, including playing with a dreidel and creating Purim masks. You have invited your peers to take part in classes on Jewish culture and history. You have also encourage your local community to get involved in sport activities simultaneously recovering the memory of Jewish sport tradition by organizing a soccer tournament in honor of the local Makabi team. Your activities involved many people, proving that there is power in numbers.”
The award for „Discovering history” went to Marshall Pilsudski Elementary School in Janowo, who described themselves as “Regular students who spent most of their time at school or peering over books,” but the jury saw how much more they represent. “You have showed how exceptional you are. Dedicated and full of passion to discover the history of Jews in your town, Jews who – as you admit yourself – were your ancestors’ neighbors and contributors to local heritage.
You have made a film showcasing the importance of posing questions about the past at your teachers, historians of the region, and most importantly, local residents. Although your town bears almost no physical trace of a Jewish presence, your efforts in uncovering and sharing their forgotten stories returned that memory to the town.”
The award for “Innovation” went to Art School Complex in Bielsko-Biała, who, according to the jury, did not stop once the minimum was done. “You decided to employ your special talents to create something truly unique. You invited your peers to play a board game you devised, the artistic merits of which showcased your great skill and creativity. Creating a board game to teach about Jewish tradition and culture turned out to be a great idea, one that can be used in the future. As artists in the making, you have created an exhibition presenting buildings designed by a great local architect, whose buildings still exist in your town.”
The award for “Diversity,” our fourth category, went to Technical School Complex in Trzebinia. The jury noted that “the fact that you collect information to commemorate the local Jewish community is important not just to you, but to your local community, people who oftentimes know very little about the place they live in. You decided to share what you have learned during meetings and talks open to the public. You have also become involved in the upkeep of the local Jewish cemetery. To permanently commemorate the tragic story of the Jews of your town you have managed to secure a permission to have a place called “the camp beyond the railway tracks” marked with a plaque. You have engaged in diverse activities that showed your neighbors, peers, and families the fate of Jews who once lived in your town. You shared their story.”
“I love Forum for Dialogue and all that you’re doing. I love all of you who have taken part in this program.“
Anna Azari, Israel’s Ambassador to Poland
The Gala was preceded, like in previous years, by an NGO Expo featuring some of the best and most engaged organizations and institutions invested in informal education, local history, Jewish history in Poland, fostering tolerance and equality, including Jan Karski Educational Foundation, Jewish Studies Student Association at University of Warsaw, Panoptykon Foundation, Humanity in Action Poland, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Muranów Station, Polish History Museum, School with Class Foundation, Moses Schorr Foundation, Warsaw Jewish Community, and Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute.
The official Gala finished as it opened, i.e. with a bang! The Krakow-based punk-folk band Hańba!, known for their lyrics inspired by poems and writings by Jewish interwar poets, such as Julian Tuwim or Tadeusz Hollender, played their three hit songs: “Gendarme,” “Nationalists,” and “Fresh and Shiny.”
We are especially grateful to The Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera and other institutions, which supported the program in 2018 and contributed to the 2017 School of Dialogue Gala:
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Friends of the Forum, CAF Canada, Agora S.A., Azrieli Foundation, BGŻ BNP Paribas, Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Dom Wydawniczy Rebis, Dom Spotkań z Historią, Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego, Green Caffè Nero, Grycan Lody od Pokoleń, Gutek Film,Kantar, Muffia Bakery, Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN, Orange Polska S.A., Ośrodek Karta, Rubicon Media, Biuro Rzecznika Praw Obywatelskich, Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy Znak, Tygodnik Powszechny, Wydawnictwo WAM, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma.
We were also proud to have the media patronage of the following companies: Gazeta Wyborcza, Onet, Polska Press, and Tok FM.