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) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyrHcgwMIeA&t=1s

VIDEO – 44 minutes – Story of Tulsa Massacre (CBS) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptbuPdkI434

ARTICLE – New York Times interactive article on what the Tulsa Race Massacre destroyed. https://www.nytimes.com/…/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."

The Joyful Noise of Rebirth and Renewal

A colored illustration depicts a seventeen-year cicada hanging upside down from a thorn bush. The insect is black, with large red eyes, and translucent wings with deep red veins.
This lovely rendition of the seventeen-year cicada is by Robert Evans Snodgrass, 1930.

Rebirth after a long period of slumber. That sentiment could reflect the current feeling of hope and optimism as we wake up from the long hiatus of the COVID-19 lockdown. For 2021, it can also describe the re-emergence of Magicicada, the seventeen-year cicada.

“Since ancient times, the cicada has been seen as a symbol of resurrection, an association that owes to its fascinating life cycle,” according to a thoughtful blog piece of the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. “This process was seen as an analogy for the spirits of the dead rising on a path to eternal existence in a transcendent realm. In the Han dynasty, jade amulets shaped like cicadas were placed on the tongues of corpses, no doubt to symbolize a hope for rebirth and immortality.”

“They are here to sing a love song. Their only purpose among the green leaves is love,” says New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl. “And you will be surrounded by reminders that the darkest tunnels always bend, in time, toward the light. That resurrection is always, always at hand.”

A lot has happened since these marvelous creatures last appeared. Then, again, maybe not. Nevertheless, we can always follow the lure of Magicicada and hope that things will get better in the long run.

Let us take time to admire all these wonderful, decidedly weird creatures with their huge red eyes, and everything they represent.

Praying for Peace – Shalom, Salaam

A field of sunflowers is seen in the fading evening light of a sunset.
Photo by Daniel L. Berek

This is supposed to be a time to celebrate. Eid-al-Fitr, concluding the holy month of Ramadan. Shavuot, the accepting of the Torah. Yet, in Israel and the Palestinian territories, there is war. Innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians have been injured and killed; businesses have been ruined and homes destroyed.

In Prayer

From Alden Solovy, For the Return [of] Peace, To Bend Light:

For the Return of Peace
O Peace, you fleeting dream,
O Justice, you fickle hope,
Today we do not pray in your name.
Today we pray in the name of the children
Who have never met you,
Who have not been blessed
With your love or your truth.
Surely, their cries must someday
Drive you out of hiding,
Summoning you to cast your healing
Upon all the earth.

One G-d,
Ancient and merciful,
Justice and Peace are Yours.
Halt their retreat from the world
And send them to us for good.
Do it for the sake of Your name,
Do it for the sake of Your right hand,
Do it for the sake of holiness,
Do it for the sake of Your children,
So that all may live in the fullness of Your gifts,
As one family on earth,
Under Your canopy of love.

In Song

Tula Ben Ari, a very talented Israeli singer, an artist with Playing for Change,

“People lost their lives. Their homes. Adults and Children live in fear, trauma and uncertainty. My heart aches with the compassion of a mother who feels the pain of every woman man or child in this region no matter if they are Jewish , Muslim, or Christian. We are all the same.” She offers her sentiment in her beautiful performance of a Paul Simon song.

May There Be Peace

My heart aches for both my beloved Israel and my Muslim brothers and sisters. May this tragic conflict end and peace prevail. Shalom, Salaam.

Bridging Two Sides of a Troubled Divide

A bridge in Paterson, New Jersey, spans a turbulent river. Behind the bridge is a waterfall. On the right-hand side an American flag flies.

Philanthropists Ray and Vivian Scott Chew see their good work as a higher calling. They founded the Power 2 Inspire Foundation. These are dark times, but there is a ray of light, of hope. The Chews created Be the Light, a “call to action to unite the country in a climate of social, political and environmental unrest.” Why? “As our leaders and communities look for ways to highlight our common bonds instead of our personal differences, we have all been given the charge of looking for ways to “be the light.”

The Be the Light Project is producing an eight-song album, “celebrating the Jewish and Christian faiths coming together as one.” For the first track, released during the time of Pesach and Easter, Cantor Azi Schwartz and Israel Houghton, backed by an interfaith Gospel choir produced a masterful cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic, Bridge over Troubled Water.

It is worth noting that, back in December 2019, Cantor Azi Schwartz and Valerie Simpson sang the same song, again with a lively Gospel choir. Collaborating here, too, were Ray and Vivian Scott Chew.

Everyone, please be safe!

Calling on the President to Welcome the Stranger; End Detention and Expulsion

A children's playground is surrounded by a fence of metal bars. Behind the bars are play structures, one of which bears a smiling face against a blue background.
During a visit to Philadelphia, the irony of a playground surrounded by a gate was not lost on me. Now I think of the child refugees along our southern border who face a very real assault on their human liberty.

An open letter to Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States, and copied to my representatives in Congress:

Dear Mr. President,

You, your presidency, represent hope for America. Yet, there are many people in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala who do not have that. Instead, the situation where they live has been so bad, that they are fleeing the place they called home, saying good-bye to beloved family. They arrived at our southern border, seeking protection. They, too, seek that hope. They are not migrants; they are refugees and asylum seekers. They need your hope. Moreover, they need your action.

In 2020, under the previous administration, the U.S. government used Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations as pretext to expel people seeking entry into the U.S. at the Mexico border. Efrén Olivares, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center Immigrant Justice Project stated, “The invocation of Title 42 was a thinly-veiled bigoted and xenophobic action that has achieved its goal of cutting off access to asylum for thousands, cloaked in the pretense of protecting public health. This policy has been roundly denounced by public health experts, including CDC scientists, as both unnecessary and ineffective. The continued use of this policy is indefensible.” In fact, continues the SPLC, the action under Title 42 is illegal:

  • It misuses public health authority (from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control) to expel individuals seeking this country’s protection without granting them access to the asylum system.
  • It violates U.S. refugee and anti-trafficking laws, as well as international treaty obligations. Under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
  • It violates the civil and human rights of children and families who asylum by expelling them to face persecution, torture, and other serious danger.

Mr. President, I applaud your many humane and humanitarian efforts to undo injustices the previous administration inflicted at home and abroad. I call on you to be a beacon of decency and hope not only in America, but the world. Yet children still languish along our southern border. During this weekend of Good Friday/Easter and Passover, we are all called on to help the stranger in need. In that spirit, I urge you end the expulsion of refugees and asylum seekers and grant them the shelter they desperately need.

I leave the last word to the great Yo Yo Ma, who last year spread his message of human unity on both sides of the border:

Trans Rights Are Human Rights

A group of people sit and stand in a circle. One person holds a Pride flag. The background is the wall of an historic building with two arches. This artistic photo is tinted yellow.
“Dia de Trans,” celebrated in the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia. Picture by Juan Pajaro Velasquez

“Rarely has an issue that so few people encounter — and one that public opinion analysts have only recently begun to study in depth—become a political and cultural flash point so quickly,” said Jeremy W. Peters in a brilliant New York Times news analysis. The piece points out that while a minuscule part of the population feels “threatened” by the “unfair competition” of trans girls in school and college sports, nearly all students feel unsafe in school — and with good reason. Another piece, this by Megan Rapinoe in the Washington Post, talks about social conservatives chasing a problem that does not exist.

In the White House, thankfully, reason and human decency recently prevailed, when the Senate confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine as the first Assistant Secretary for Health. She pledged to “promote policies that advance the health and well-being of all Americans,” including transgender people like herself. But her confirmation 52 to 48 should not have been so close. The article quotes Dr. Levine as saying, “Sadly, some of the challenges you face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you.”

“Any attempt to discriminate against trans kids or trans people is actually against the law and against nondiscrimination laws already on the books,” said Reggie Greer, senior White House advisor on LGBT issues to the White House.

Mississippi recently became the second state to ban transgender women in sports, and lawmakers have introduced similar bills in 25 other states. And the Arkansas governor earlier this month allowed medical workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people.

“Transgender and non-binary people face significant cultural, legal and economic challenges, but continue to bravely share their stories, boldly claim their seats at the table and tirelessly push equality forward,” said Human Rights Commission President Alphonso David. “The transgender and non-binary community’s pride, power and resilience should be a lesson to us all. As advocates, we must commit to learning together and building a world where every person can truly thrive.” HRC has already marked 12 violent killings of transgender people for 2021.

For those who doubt the authenticity of sexual and gender identity, the science supports the trans community. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Gender identity and sexual orientation are fundamental independent characteristics of an individual’s sexual identity. Scientific American documented that “sex is anything but binary” and urges people to “stop using phony science to justify transphobia. Sex and gender are not the same. s

Human decency and kindness also support the trans community.