Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poland: Israeli and Polish Students Work to Clean and Document Knyszyn Cemetery

Knyszyn, Poland. Students working at Jewish cemetery. Photos courtesy of FODZ

Poland: Israeli and Polish Students Work to Clean and Document Knyszyn Cemetery

(ISJM) On October 21, 2009, a group of Israeli students visited the Polsih town of Knyszyn where they worked at the local Jewish cemetery together with Polish students from the School Complex. The group also toured the town and took part in joint workshops. This program was the latest implementation of the program ‘To Bring Memory Back’ developed in 2005 by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland to recover memories of neglected Jewish sites, and to connect the younger generation with the threatened legacy of the Jewish past. The meeting in Knyszyn was organized by the Foundation within the new project called ‘Haverim – Friends. Polish-Jewish youth meetings’.

According to the Foundation:
‘Haverim – Friends. Polish-Jewish youth meetings’ derives directly from the ‘To Bring Memory Back’ educational program realized by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland’ since 2005.

The paths of Polish students participating in the ‘To Bring Memory Back’ program and young Jews from Israel and the United States of America crossed in 2006, when Foundation, acting on request of one or our Israeli partners, arranged a visit of youngIsraelis to Zambrow. In 2007 three youth meetings were organized in August. Students from Debica, Kielce and Knyszyn along with their Jewish counterparts were visiting Jewish cemeteries, shared experience, exchanged addresses and made friends. In 2008 three more meetings were organized in Brody, Przemysl and Warsaw. In 2009 the meetings took place in Krasnik, Lublin, Otwock and Siedlce and a meeting in Knyszyn is scheduled for October. This visible growth of popularity resulted in the creation of the ‘Haverim’ program. The idea of the program is to break the clichés existing in both Poland and Israel. The students from Israel, who visit mostly Holocaust-related places and see Poles only through the windows of their buses have the opportunity to meet people their own age involved in the matter of preserving the historical heritage of Polish Jews. Young Poles can confront their expectations and knowledge gathered during the realization of the program with reality. Both sides involved may develop their sensitivity and openness to other cultures and religions, finally to discover that young people throughout the world have more in common than they realize. It is a perfect opportunity for them to get new pen pals and even friends for years, over the existing political, cultural and language barriers. The ‘Haverim – Friends. Polish – Jewish youth meetings’ is supported by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.

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