| 2014 |
Ignacy Jan Paderewski High School
“Christians call Jews “older brothers in faith.” Which part of the Bible is holy for both Jews and Christians?” This was just one of the many riddles posed for urban game participants in Lubasz, a tiny town in Wielkopolskie voivodeship located not far from Czarnków. Although now mostly associated with agrotourism, the story of Lubasz is that of multicultural Polish-German-Jewish past. Jews began settling in Lubasz in the 13th century, following the decisions of Kalisz Statute from 1264, which guaranteed their safety, protection of their private property and freedom to practice their religion. First headstones at Lubasz’ Jewish cemetery date back to the 17th century. When a synagogue was erected in the 18th century in Czarnków, some of the Jews moved there from Lubasz. According to the sources, there were 97 Jews living in Lubasz in the 19th century, and only one beit midrash was left open. When World War II began, Jews disappeared from Lubasz as early as 1939, as Germans summoned them to Czarnków. From there, they were transported to Chodzież and then to the Litzmannstadt ghetto. In all likelihood, most of them died in Kulmhof camp.
The most important Jewish site in Lubasz is the cemetery, with bilingual matzevot of German Jews that were put in vertical position as a result of cleanup during Christian Culture Days in 2011.
Other sites include Jewish tenement homes, as the Lubasz synagogue had been burnt down. Up until School of Dialogue, there had been no attempts to commemorate the town’s past other than one initiative put forward by Local Cultures Appreciation Society.
High school students who participated in School of Dialogue workshops are active young people who did not waste time and got involved, as proper social activists should. They not only visited the Jewish cemetery, but also conducted thorough cleanup of the whole area and cleaned one of the headstones. Using sources such as Andrzej Furier’s book “Z kart historii Lubasza” (“Excerpts from the pages of Lubasz’ history), information found online, in the “Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom and Other Slavic States” (“Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich”) as well as oral account of Lubasz resident Ms. Helena Budaj, students wrote a collaborative study entitled “Jews in Lubasz”. Next, they started to prepare an urban game about the town’s Jewish residents that became the main element of their project in the School of Dialogue competition.
The route of the game prepared for students from different years of their school began at the Jewish cemetery, the best preserved element of the local Jewish heritage, and finished inside the school. On the way, players were given tasks to find houses and tenement-building in Lubasz connected with the local Jews. Information about these buildings was provided by 95-year-old Helena Budaj, who still remembers the town’s prewar life. Participating students learned that “buildings no.11 and 13 on Chrobrego Street belonged to a Jewish man named Cohn, who also owned a farm, a store and a brick factory that employed Polish workers. When the synagogue burnt down, religious services would be held in the brick factory.” Game participants had to spot different cues that would point to next stops on the route and win points for correct answers to questions connected with Jewish history and traditions. Players seemed to enjoy this form of a walking tour. The whole event ended with a sum-up inside the school, where game organizers presented a short history of the Jewish people, their presence on Polish lands, traditions and customs, as well as gave an account of the story of Jewish Lubasz in the form of an exhibition and presentation with commentary. Students quoted one of the accounts from the chronicle of a local school. “(…) Year 1923. Anti-Jewish actions have been organized since April, with some Jewish properties having their windows broken.
In the evening of May 2, an unidentified offender painted over Jewish symbols with tar. Windows were broken in the houses of Jakub Grass, Jakub Cohn and Hurschfeld. At 11:30PM on June 6, Poles set fire to the synagogue, a Jewish temple. (…) The building burnt to the ground.”
After the sum-up, awards were presented to the winners of the urban game and to those whose works were deemed best in the school competition “Jews in Polish culture and history”. Finally, all participants had the opportunity to try matzoh with hummus, challah and apple pie, all prepared by the students.
Working independently, students managed to obtain personal testimonies about prewar Lubasz, with information about particular houses and sites. They then faced the challenge of verifying thus obtained information, which gave them an opportunity to use a critical approach in analyzing sources and to overcome stereotypes in both the testimonies and in entries for the school’s art competition submitted by other students of the school. An important moment in the course of the workshops was the discussion about attitudes and ways of perceiving others. As students themselves say, in the course of working on the School of Dialogue project, they had succeeded in transforming themselves:
Ignacy Jan Paderewski High School
2nd year students
Anna Desponds, Jagoda Szkarłat
In appreciation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) for supporting this educational program. Through recovering the assets of the victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference enables organizations around the world to provide education about the Shoah and to preserve the memory of those who perished.
In appreciation to Friends of the Forum for supporting the School of Dialogue educational program.