University of British Columbia and the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada Present Dean’s Distinguished Lecture: Reconciling History

A graphic announces this event. Text reads Dean's Distinguished Lecture Reconciling History Presented by Faculty of Education, Featuring Doctor Cindy Blackstock; A portrait of Doctor Blackstock depicts a middle-aged woman with short brown hair and dark eyes; She wears horn-rimmed glasses and a bronze jacket.

Dr. Jerry Nussbaum of the Janusz Korczak Association (JKA) of Canada has announced collaboration with the University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Education to present the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture, “Reconciling History.” Also presented will be the Janusz Korczak Medal and Statuette for Children’s Rights Advocacy Award Ceremony.

According to the UBC, “The distinguished lecture series highlights the ongoing work of those who seek to advance children’s rights in Canada and is presented in partnership with the JKA as a way of continuing the legacy of Janusz Korczak.”

Date: Monday, November 15, 2021
Time: 5:30–7:15 p.m. PST

This event is open to everyone and registration is required.

No Child’s Play: Children in the Holocaust

The cover of a museum catalog for an exhibit no child's play children in the Holocaust Creativity and Play shows a ceramic doll's head against a white background. The doll's head is of a little girl, her hair tied at the top. She has a faint smile.

“ It is not proper to be ashamed of any game. This is no child’s play. It is wrong for adults to say – and for the more intelligent of the children to repeat after them ‘Such a big boy and he plays like a baby; such a big girl and she still plays with dolls.’ What matters is not what one plays with, but rather how and what one thinks and feels while playing. One can play wisely with a doll or play childishly and foolishly at chess. One can play with great interest and imagination at being a policeman, making a train, being a hunter or an Indian, and one can read books without any thought or interest.”
– Janusz Korczak

The Center for History and New Media published an excellent and detailed review of this catalog. In addition to Yad Vashem, No Child’s Play was exhibited at the Mobile Museum of Art.

NO CHILD’S PLAY – By American Society for Yad Vashem from Yeeshai Gross on Vimeo.

Hannah Szenes Parachuted over Nazi Europe but Landed in Israel

Two portraits of Hannah Szenes, one from 1939 and the other from 1940, show a young woman with curly dark hair and dark eyes. In the right-hand portrait she wears a dark top with a white collar. In the left-hand portrait, she wears a Hungarian military uniform, perhaps as a Purim costume.
Hannah Szenes (1921-1944) was a Hungarian poet and playwright. She joined the resistance forces in Eretz Israel (British Palestine Mandate) and parachuted into Yugoslavia to fight the Nazi forces. She was captured in Hungary, where she was tortured and killed, rather than reveal the code of her military transmitter. Little known in her native Hungary, she is a hero in Israel, where her body was laid to rest.

Hannah Szenes (1921-1944) was a Hungarian poet and Zionist. Her father, Bela, was a playwright, and her mother, Kathrine, an elegant homemaker. In 1939, Hannah left for the British Mandate Palestine (Eretz Israel). where she studied at the Girls’ Agricultural School at Nahalal. Two years later, in 1941, she became part of Kibbutz Sdot Yam. Afterward, she joined the Haganah, the paramilitary group that laid the foundation of the Israel Defense Forces. She became a member of the member of the a Special Operations Executive (SOE). Hannah was one of 37 brave young souls who parachuted into Yugoslavia, on a mission to assist anti-Nazi forces and, ultimately, rescue fellow Hungarian Jews who were about to be deported to Auschwitz. However, she was arrested at the Hungarian border. Hannah would be be imprisoned. Rather than reveal her secret military codes, she was severely tortured and executed. Hannah’s mother was also arrested. Though Kathrin, too, refused to speak, she survived the war.

Though little known in Hungary, she is a beloved figure in Israel. According to a short biography, “One of the more poignant songs included in many Holocaust memorial convocations held in Israel, is a short poem, set to music, known popularly as ‘Eli, Eli….’ [Hannah’s] short life and death have propelled her into the pantheon of Zionist history.” And, in Israel, her poetry is widely known, and the Yad Hana kibbutz as well as several streets, are named after her.

In 1950, Hannah made a final journey back to the Holy Land, now Israel, where she has been laid to rest, at the Mount Herzl military cemetery. Welcome home, Hannah. Welcome home.

Looking for more information and a bibliography of Hannah Szenes? Read the excellent article in the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Korczak Is Inspiration in New Novel

A composite photo shows the cover of Jai Chakrabarti's novel A Play for the End of the World and a portrait of the author. Jai is a young Indian man with long dark hair. He wears a black leather jacket over a dark blue shirt. The cover art features the title and author's name in white and black script against an orange background.

In his debut novel, acclaimed writer Jai Chakrabati features a love story spanning three continents over several decades. But, says Chakrabati, it’s more than that. It’s also an historical novel inspired by none other than Janusz Korczak. A Play for the End of the World features the performance of Rabindranath Tagore’s play, The Post Office. Korczak chose that play to offer the orphans hope and dignity in the hell that was the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. This event, only weeks before the liquidation of the Ghetto, was beautifully portrayed in the 1990 Wajda film Korczak. Thirty years later, the same play would give hope to villagers in India fighting for their land. Art doesn’t just exist solely to save us,” says Chakrabati. “It has all of these hidden rooms, and I wanted to live in those rooms through India and Poland.” Even more, the author visits the idea of love as an act of resistance.

Chakrabati first learned about Korczak when he and his partner were living in Israel and visited Yad Vashem, where he saw an exhibit, “Art in the Ghettoes.” His interest sparked, he visited both Warsaw and Tagore’s Bengali village of Shantiniketan.

“I was compelled by the fact that art became both a refuge and a kind of protest.  In Warsaw, the play served to bring the children and the community together, and I believe its themes—Dak Ghar centers on a dying child who’s been quarantined in his home—would have been deeply resonant for the orphans,” says Chakrabati in a recent author interview.

These themes are indeed compelling. I have ordered a copy of this book and look forward to reading it and sharing my thoughts here.

University of British Columbia Presents Korczak-Inspired Course on Children’s Rights

A flyer from the University of British Columbia describes a Fall 2021 course, Janusz Korczak's Legacy: Children's Rights Are Human Rights. The words are in yellow and white against a dark blue background, punctuated by yellow and white triangles. A photograph shows Korczak with several of his orphans.

The University of British Columbia this fall is offering an interdisciplinary course, Janusz Korczak’s Legacy: Children’s Rights Are Human Rights. According to Jerry Nussbaum, President of the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada, this important course was initiated and sponsored by the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada and the BC Representative for Children and Youth.

As described the course syllabus, “…this course introduces students to the foundations of children’s human rights by examining contexts within which those rights are situated. This course offers interdisciplinary graduate students an opportunity to advance their knowledge… by exploring children’s human rights’ historical, socio-cultural, legal and institutional contexts, as well as Korczak’s enduring contributions to improving children’s lives. The course proposes to critically examine relevant scholarly debates across disciplines, current issues, and implementation approaches, including those intended to remedy children’s human rights violations while considering ‘real world’ practices and child-centred, rights-based approaches to domestic and global issues across disciplines.”

The life and work of such a multi-faceted individual as Janusz Korczak is perfectly suited to interdisciplinary study.

Remembering the Courageous Deed of Janusz Korczak

Mariola Strahlberg, Janusz Korczak Association of the U.S.A., remembered “the courageous deed of Janusz Korczak, the staff of the Orphans’ Home and their 192 children who peacefully marched on August 5th, 1942 to be taken to their final destination at Treblinka extermination camp near Warsaw.”

For Korczak’s birthday this year, Ms. Strahlberg shared poems and wishes from children.

On this day, a much more somber occasion, she shared more insights in her blog.

A Birthday Message from the Janusz Korczak Association of the U.S.A.

A message from Mariola Strahlberg, President, Janusz Korczak Association of the U.S.A., on the Old Doctor’s Birthday:

Dear Korczakians,
Today we are celebrating Janusz Korczak’s Birthday. Every year on this day I realize how blessed I am that I found my way to this very special human being. With each year I am amazed how much I learn by being connected with the wider Korczak community.
This year, for Korczak’s Birthday, Julie Scott is sharing with us three unique and more personal poems from her 8th grade Language Arts classes at the East Valley Middle School in Spokane, Washington. She was teaching these classes during spring 2021 to 90 students over a two-week period. The first two poems were written by students who really connected with Korczak’s story. The third poem is very unusual. The student asked Julie for permission to write something other than a found poetry poem and of course she was fine with that. In that poem you will find a fascinating metaphor where Korczak is a cloud and the orphans are his raindrops.  
I also asked the students to send us their wishes for today’s children and you can find their wishes after their poems.

Mariola published these works here; please take a moment to read them – they are treasures!

Project Rozana/Wheels of Hope Bring Together Three Faiths in One Common Good

For Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land, this May was supposed to be a time of hope. Instead, people of both faiths found themselves praying for peace while the armed forces of the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas/Palestine aimed rockets at targets, with civilians caught in the middle. Indeed, “sometimes, even in the darkest of moments, there are points of light that give hope for a brighter future.” Project Rozana is one of those flickering lights, for people of both groups.

Rozana is a nine-year-old Palestinian girl who was severely wounded in the ongoing conflict there. A group of young Palestinian men took her to a hospital in Israel, where she would get the lifesaving care she needed. Israeli doctors train their Palestinian counterparts in emergency medicine.

Project Rozana takes a three-pronged approach:

  • Train. They train Palestinian health professionals in Israeli hospitals, to return and build community health capacities, particularly identified gaps.
  • Transport. They transport Palestinian patients from checkpoints in Gaza and the West Bank to hospitals in Israel, with NGO partners.
  • Treat. They treat critically ill Palestinian children in Israeli hospitals when Palestinian Authority funding reaches its limit, as well as from centers of conflict.

In short, Project Rozana seeks to “build bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health.” Maestro Zubin Mehta explains:

Hadassah Road to Recovery Campaign from Hadassah Australia on Vimeo.

July 7: Night of Action

Faith leaders (Muslim, Jewish, and Christian), elected officials, and activists have pledged their commitment to Project Rozana’s mission and the Wheels of Hope campaign. This event will take place on Wednesday, July 7, 8:00 EDT, on Zoom. Please join this interfaith group! Register online here.

If you missed the event, it has been recorded and can now be streamed here.

Please Donate to Be Part of This Movement for Peace

Donate to Project Rozana’s Wheel of Hope Campaign:
USA Donors
Canadian Donors

Join Congregation Or Ha Lev (Jewish Renewal) for the Next Episode of the Racial Justice Learning Circle

Congregation Or Ha Lev (a Jewish Renewal community) will hold its next Racial Justice Learning Circle (RJLC) discussion will be Sunday, July 11, at 10:30 a.m.

The topic will be the 1921 Tulsa Oklahoma Race Massacre.

To prepare for this discussion, please see the resources below:

VIDEO – 6 minutes – The Origins of Greenwood / “Negro Wall Street” (History Channel)

VIDEO – 44 minutes – Story of Tulsa Massacre (CBS)

ARTICLE – New York Times interactive article on what the Tulsa Race Massacre destroyed.…/us/tulsa-race-massacre.html…

PODCAST 38 minutes – Story of the Newspaper owner in Greenwood. The New Yorker Radio Hour.

Looking Ahead

The next RJLC discussion dates (Sundays, 10:30 a.m.) are:

July 11: Discuss the Tulsa Race Massacre

August 1: Hear from two black college age students: their challenges and hopes for the future. 

September and October: dates to be announced. We will be discussing Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste.  

For those of you who will not be reading the book, we will send out videos shortly, to watch as preparation. Sections to be covered during these two months:

September: Sections 2 and 3

October: Sections 3 and 4

Scholars Discuss Children’s “Right to Dignity and the Obligation to Respect”

A book cover sketch shows an older gentleman surrounded by four children. Doctor Korczak is balding and sports a moustache and beard. He wears a suit jacket over a white shirt and tie.

In late 1998, scholars from around the world met at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Jerusalem, Israel, to discuss the right to dignity and the obligation to respect according to the teachings of Janusz Korczak. In 2000, the Janusz Korczak Association in Israel published synopses of the papers in Hebrew (not English).

The conference proceedings comprise six sections.

A Sketch of Korczak’s Character. In all, 13 scholars explored the Old Doctor’s “sensitive, warm, and loving personality through the eyes of the children who had the privilege of being in his care.”

A Study of Korczak’s Legacy and Writings. A dozen scholars examined several themes in Korczak’s writings: “the right to dignity and the obligation to respect, children’s rights, the character of the orphanage, Korczak’s practical work and educational thought, child – educator relations, and the parents’ responsibility in the education of their children. How is Korczak’s legacy relevant today?

Implementation of Korczak’s Legacy. Ten papers, mostly from Israel and Poland, discussed putting Korczak’s pedagogy into practice.

Educational Questions on the Subject ‘The Right to Dignity, the Obligation to Respect. These ten scholarly papers “focus on the way in which teachers and students, parents and children, and individuals talk to each other. They ask what it means to respect.

Korczak the Author. Seven papers “give various examples of Korczak’s literary works, which reflect his character and educational work.”

Miscellaneous. A final seven authors examined aspects of the history of the Jewish people in the Holocaust, as they relate to Korczak.

This scan of the editorial page, in English, reads "The book of the sixth international academic conference. The right to dignity and the obligation to respect, according to the teachings of Janusz Korczak. The Janusz Korczak Association in Israel 2000."