2021 School of Dialogue Overview

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This year, students participating in the School of Dialogue initiative faced an additional task as compared to their predecessors. Given the pandemic reality, they all did their share to prepare a game that simultaneously offered an overview of the previous year’s actions and activities. Basing off of their own School of Dialogue projects, the knowledge they gained through participating in the workshop series as well as their own research, each group endeavored to prepare tasks for their peer groups also participating in the School of Dialogue program. With the support of GD Events event agency and Forum staff, these efforts resulted in a multimedia game transporting participants into the prewar world of Polish Jews during Purim.

On March 30, 2022, players had a chance to try their luck in the competition and see which group had made the most lasting impression on members of the competition jury. In 2021, 523 students from 28 schools aided by 50 teachers explored history pertaining to their town’s Jewish communities. More about results of the students’ work and about actions accompanying various School of Dialogue projects can be found here.

Projects that received honorable mentions in 2021

Among all the schools participating in the School of Dialogue program in 2021, 13 received the honorable mentions in three categories:

For “Impact on local community”

  • Elementary School No.1 in Kalisz
  • School Complex in Ożarów
  • High School No.1 in Szamotuły
  • Stanisław Skarżyński Elementary School in Warta
  • Józef Bliziński Elementary School in Bóbrka

For “Discovering Knowledge”

  • Elementary School No. 5 in Biłgoraj
  • Queen Jadwiga High School No. 9 in Rzeszów
  • Elementary School in Wińsko
  • John Paul II Academic High School in Biała Podlaska

For “Engagement”

  • Janusz Kusociński High School No. 7 and  Emil Warmiński High School No. 8 in Bydgoszcz
  • Jan Kasprowicz High School No. 2 in Kutno
  • Jan Walery Jędrzejewicz Elementary School No. 2 in Płońsk
  • The Polish Noble Prize Winners Non-Public Elementary School in Otwock

Winning projects in 2021

Best project in the “Discovering Knowledge” category:

Biała Podlaska John Paul II Academic High School

Higschoolers from grade IIB readily admit they didn’t know much about Biała Podlaska’s Jewish history. In the course of their research they gained a wealth of new information about their town and its residents, but perhaps more importantly were able to connect to individuals for whom this local history remains an important part of their own identity.

Descendants of Jair Torenhaim who decided to visit Biała Podlaska and present their father’s and grandfather’s life story in the town prior to World War II acted as the bridge between the gradually uncovered past and the present. The meeting between Torenhaim’s family and School of Dialogue participants has been recorded and translated. Let the words of Shmuel Torenhaim serve as testimony to the impact the meeting had made on its participants: „who does not know the past will not have a future.”

Praiseworthy is also the means through which Biała Podlaska program participants shared the results of their project work. The students’ efforts did not go unnoticed by the local media. They also inspired local authorities to commemorate local Jews and organized a happening that gathered considerable attention among their town’s residents.

Best project in the “Impact on Local Community” category

Bóbrka Józef Bliziński Elementary School

Seventh-graders from Bóbrka decided to commemorate the history of Jews in Subcarpathian region. Program participants set out to employ a host of actions for their project work. Their openness and eagerness to engage local residents in all their acticivities is truly awe-inspiring.

Tracking life stories of prewar residents in Ustrzyki Dolne, students were able to obtain not only historical documents and reach both experts as well as the oldest residents for whom Hersh, Chana and Rejzia were no historical figures, but neighbors and classmates. To honor their memory, students visited the Jewish cemetery in Ustrzyki Dolne, where they conducted cleanup works and commemorated those who had been buried there. To present all their initiatives undertaken as part of School of Dialogue project, students organized a walking tour for local residents and an exhibition in Bóbrka’s village after-school care center, during which guests were treated to Jewish dishes that the students had made themselves.

Best project in the “Engagement” category

Otwock – The Polish Noble Prize Winners Non-Public Elementary School

Assiduous research work and a variety of commemorative actions undertaken for School of Dialogue project are what made the work of Otwock’s elementary school students so outstanding. The project’ focal point was a screening of a film made by a group consisting of seventh- and eighth-graders. Afterwards, all viewers were invited to an exhibition of artworks created by the project participants. Simultaneously, anyone interested could participate in an outdoor game and test the knowledge gained from watching the film. Lapbooks, or foldable interactive presentations, were offered to the youngest audience members, offering information about noteworthy Jewish sites and residents, which was also included in a map and guidebook prepared by project participants.

Creativity and diversity also pertained to the subject areas tackled by participants from Otwock; their project presented information about the town’s notable residents, offered a glimpse into Jewish cooking, deciphered symbols on Jewish tombstones and presented a selection of Jewish music.

Sponsors and partner institutions

Project financed by the Active Citizens Fund – National financed by the Norwegian and EEA funds.

Project co-financed by Friends of the Forum, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and individual and institutional donors from Poland and abroad.

We would also like to thank the following institutions for contributing towards this year’s awards for students: Austeria Publishing House, Bellona Publishing House, The Polish Center for Holocaust Research, Czarne Publishing House, Krytyka Polityczna Publishing House, Ośrodek KARTA, Auschwitz Jewish Center, Foksal Publishing Group, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.