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.
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:
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
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 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:
Part 1. Children’s Rights: Concept, History, and Cross-Cultural Perspective. “Jonathan Levy, Director of Pedagogy and Advocacy of Child Rights in Action, will explore the role of children’s rights in the thought of Janusz Korczak.” Thursday, March 4, 2021, 3:00 p.m. (EST)
Part 2.Janusz Korczak’s Life and Legacy for Educators Today. Mariola Strahlberg will cover “Janusz Korczak’s childhood, his career as a writer, pediatrician, educator, and his advocacy for children’s rights.” Afterward, Sara Efrat Efron, Professor Emerita at National Louis University, will discuss “how to support children in times of crisis by teaching them responsibility for self, others, and communities at large.” Thursday, March 11, 2021, 4:00 p.m. (EST)
Part 3. Teaching Today through Children’s Rights and Korczak’s Inspiration. Ira Pataki, is an attorney who changed careers for education. He “will examine the children’s republic in the classroom today. The Youth Court and its emphasis on the concept of restorative justice offers an ideal way to promote individual responsibility and constructive group interaction to promote change and empower our students as stakeholders in the school community. The SKY (Sharpsville Korczak Youth) Court arose as an organic hybrid of Korczak’s progressive vision and the concept of restorative justice.”
These webinars and several others are all part of a very interesting lineup at Drew University over Zoom.
After suffering anxiety and uncertainty, children everywhere are reassured that a beloved figure will be there for them. There won’t be lines at the store, no soft lap to sit on. But one thing won’t go away: that sense of love, the greatest gift of all. This in a year they have suffered so much loss. One company, StoryFile, allows children to “interview” their hero with its app and ask him any of 180 questions. The Intelligence may be Artificial, but the Santa’s love is real. Just go to AskSanta.com.
On November 20, the Good Doctor told USA Today, “…Santa, of all the good qualities, has a lot of innate immunity. So, Santa is not going to be spreading any infections to anybody.” Doctors across the U.S. agreed, adding that Santa is taking all precautions. Though children won’t be able to line up for him, they will be able to track his progress via NORAD, as they have done in years past.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkove of the World Health Organization, said that despite his older age, Santa is immune to this virus. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Santa has been cleared from his country’s air space. Santa is alive and well in Finland; he wants children to be safe and celebrate the most wonderful aspect of Christmas, spending time together with family. And virtually, the man who mastered going down chimneys has to learn to navigate something more challenging: Zoom.
Yaffa Eliach, born in Eishyshok, Lithuania, 1937, was an historian who made it her life’s work to document the Jewish people of Eastern Europe before World War II. Most important, she felt it was her duty to give these people a voice, to tell their history in their own way, on their own terms.The author of There Once Was a World and Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, many people know professor Eliach for “Tower of Faces,” a work made up of 1,500 photographs at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Of all the atrocities and cruelties the Nazis inflicted during the Holocaust, the campaigns targeting civilian children directly must rank the most savage and cowardly; such a deliberate policy was unprecedented in the course of human history. One of every four Jewish victims, a million and a half souls, was a child. The important exhibit this book documents brings together photographs of individual children, often with the name of the subject. The philosophy of Yad Vashem is that everybody had a name and that every individual must be remembered.
By nature, a photograph is complex. First, being a snapshot in time, a photograph tells what happened at precisely the moment it was taken. What was to happen in the future, be it a few moments or several years, might be entirely different. The photographs in the first section of this book, On the Eve of Destruction, are testimony to this fact; these are personal family photographs taken before the war and the deliberate campaigns of the Holocaust. The contrast of the everyday, normal life context of these photographs against what is to follow is stark indeed. Most heart-rending is a photograph of a beautiful little girl in a plaid dress and a large bow in her hair. She stands next to a prized doll, wide-eyed and smiling. She had a name: it was Mala Silberberg. What the photo does not convey is that little Mala would soon be deported to Auschwitz. When she arrived, Josef Mengele was informed of her angelic singing voice, so he asked her to sing. At the end of her song, Mengele smiled, took out his revolver, and shot her in the head at close range. Yet, little Mala’s story remains.
Second, a photograph represents something the photographer wanted to convey. Most of the time, the person behind the camera was a Nazi persecutor, on orders to document the accomplishments of his comrades as a form of propaganda, which also sought to portray the Jews as helpless victims, worthy of the name Untermenschen, or sub-humans. Such photographs form the core of the work, the section titled “Under the Heel of the Oppressor.” With perhaps some poetic justice, these same photographs have become an irrefutable indictment, evidence of the unspeakable crimes the Nazis committed. However, sometimes the person operating the shutter was a Jew, often a former professional photographer who, at the risk of death, sought to bear witness to the crimes of the Nazis. The photographs in this section are grouped by themes: “Seeking Refuge in a Hostile World,” “Children of the Ghetto,” “Open-Air Killings,” “Deportation,” “Concentration Camps.” “Partisans,” and “In Hiding.” Both types of photographs appear in this section; the caption identifies those taken by Jewish photographers and, in one case, a German who was sympathetic to the Jewish plight.
The final section, “Liberation,” comprises photographs taken as a means of identification, in a desperate effort to reunite children with their parents, in those rare cases that both survived. These were the photographs most likely to “survive” the war. All are of individual people. Says the curator and book’s editor, Yaffa Eliach, “It is when the shutter closes that the ages, mind, and heart of the viewer must open in an attempt to comprehend what is missing from the image. Only we can see beyond the shattered fragments of the Holocaust period to the larger whole. Thus, the final step on the journey of understanding must be ours.”
Review of: Yaffa Eliach, We Were Children Just Like You. Brooklyn, NY: Center for Holocaust Studies, 1990. ISBN 978-0960997084
Outside our window, the world is suffering Overcrowded hospitals awash with pain Difference met with disdain We hear the cries of Mother Earth. We are her children you can’t silence She will hear our poem for her forests, Our song for her oceans, Together, our call will be a thunderstorm. We are never too young, Nor too small. Racism, discrimination, inequality – Let’s erase them all. Masked, not muted, me and you.
Together, we will reimagine the world, Because this is our way. This is our planet. This is our day. A kid is just a kid, they say But when the world opens its eyes, It will see us for who we are. Masked, not muted, you and I.
Today is #WorldChildrensDay. This is UNICEF’s “day of action for children, by children.” In this, the year of COVID-19, “The costs of the pandemic for children are immediate and, if unaddressed, may last a lifetime.”
Yet, we can, we must, together reimagine a better world for every child.
Janusz Korczak imagined a world where the children ruled over their present and their future, both in his children’s home and in his classic, King Matt. In that spirit, on World Children’s Day, children will assume important roles in all walks of life, “to shine a spotlight on issues that matter to them.”
The early crisp fall hours of November 1938 everywhere was shattered with the smashing of broken windows. The gentle darkness exploded with flashes of flames, as they devoured Jewish businesses and immolated synagogues. Roused from their sleep, Jews everywhere were taken out of their homes and beaten up, their possessions looted and books burned. This took place in large cities like Berlin and thousands of towns and villages across Germany. In the space of the 24 hours that followed, 91 Jews had been killed; more than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. There, more than a thousand of them would perish.
Glass shattered everywhere, from hammers smashing storefront windows and flames devouring once magnificent synagogues. These scenes gave the tragedy an enduring name: Kristallnacht.
The world was not at war. At least not yet. After all, five weeks earlier, Britain and France had negotiated a pact with Hitler, which was allowed to annex the Sudetenland. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spoke of having inaugurated “peace in our time.”
Now, people were waking up to the fact that when confronted by evil, one cannot be silent. “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim,” said Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on Dec. 10, 1986. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”
Or, as my Rabbi says, when one hears, “Are you there?” one must not answer with ani (“I am”). The moral response, as we learn several times in the Torah, is hineni, “Here I am.”
The Holocaust would ultimately take some 6,000,000 Jewish lives and millions more of others. One-quarter of these souls, 1,500,000 were children. Unlike any previous genocide, Nazism specifically target children. It is them I think of them on this day of observance—Michel Neumann and all the others. With that, I offer the remarkable words of Janusz Korczak, who more than anyone else at the time knew how a child feels.
Excerpts from Janusz Korczak, When I Am Little Again (Translation by E.P. Kulawiec)
I’m lying in bed. I’m not sleeping. Only I’m recalling that when I was little, I often thought about what I would do when I grew up.
When I’ll be big, I’ll build my parents a house. And I’ll have a garden&msash:and I’ll plant flowers too, in such a way that when one would fade, others would bloom.
I’ll buy some books too, with pictures in them or, better, without pictures, just so they’re interesting. I’ll buy paints, colored pencils, and I’ll draw and paint. I’ll draw whatever I happen to see.
I’ll take care of the garden, and I’ll build a summer house in it. And in the summer house, I’ll but a bench and an armchair. The summer house will be overgrown with wild grape, and when Papa returns home from work, he can sit comfortably there in the shade. He’ll put on his eyeglasses and read the newspaper.
And Mama will keep chickens. And there will be a pigeon roost high up on a pole to keep the cat and any other harmful animal from breaking in. And I’ll have rabbits and a magpie too, and I’ll teach it to talk. I’ll also have a pony and three dogs…. Mama will also have a little house dog. But if she prefers a cat, then she can have a cat as well. The animals will get used to one another. They’ll eat out of the same dish. The dog will wear a red ribbon and the cat, a blue one. Once I even asked Mama: “Mama, is a red ribbon better for a dog or a cat?” And Mama answered, “You tore your pants again today.”
“What would I do if I were little again?” Not so small, but big enough to go to school again, to be playing with my friends again. If only to wake up suddenly and discover: “What’s happened? Am I only dreaming, or is it real.”
If I were a boy again, I’d want to remember and know everything that I know now. Only I wouldn’t want anyone to find out that I was already a grownup once.
And so, I’m lying in bed—I’m not sleeping. I’m day-dreaming. “If I knew then, I’d never want to grow up. It’s a hundred times better to be little. Grownups are unhappy. It isn’t at all so that grownups can do whatever they want to. We have even less freedom than do children. And our cares and responsibilities are heavier. And we have more sorrows, too. And we have happy thoughts less frequently than do children. We don’t cry anymore, that’s true, but probably because it isn’t worth crying.
And when I sighed, it suddenly became very dark in my room. I can’t see anything…. And all at once, a tiny light appeared in my room, like a little star…. I look, and it’s a little lantern. And on my pillow, there is standing a tiny, little man. He has a white beard, and on his head there is a high red hat. Sooo, it’s an elf.
“You called me,” he says, “and now you don’t believe.”
“Tell me what your wish is. What is it you want from me?”
“I want to be little again.”
The First Day (Mostly in School)
“A child is like spring. Either it’s nice and sunny and gay and pretty or else, suddenly, there’s a storm, lightning flashes, and even thunder. But a grownup is like a fog. A sad, grey fog surrounds him.”
The Second Day (Mostly in School, Like the First Day)
At night, it snowed. It’s so white outside—so very white. I haven’t seen snow in many years. After so many, many years, I’m glad that it snowed, that it’s white all over again…. When I was a grownup and I saw snow, I already anticipated the slush that would follow. I felt the damp overshoes and wondered whether there would be enough coal for the winter. And joy—it was there too, but sprinkled somehow with ashes, dusty and grey. But now, I feel only that white, transparent and blinding joy. Why? For no reason at all: because it snowed!
I walk slowly, carefully; it’s a pity to trample on it. All about it sparkles and shines and glitters; it changes and plays and is alive. And there are thousands of little sparks inside me. It’s as if someone sprinkled diamond dust in my soul and along the ground. The dust was sown, and now diamond tress will spring up, and a wondrous fairy tale will be born.
A tiny, white star falls on my hand, a beautiful, precious little star. It’s a pity that it will disappear.
Instead, it’s only school now.
“Sit straight; don’t slouch!”
It isn’t too bad when a person feels sad. Sadness—that’s a gentle and pleasant thing. Good thoughts come into your head then.… You want to help everybody, and you want to improve yourself.
Isn’t it true that we like sad tales? That must mean that we need sadness, too, sometimes. Sadness is like an angel who stands nearby and watches over you and who places his hand on your head and signs with his wings.”
And the sensitive child takes fright and lives in constant fear. Like a rabbit. Even when he sleeps, the rabbit’s afraid. And we, too, have disturbing dreams. And we awake in fright. Something creaks in the middle of the night, and we imagine that a ghost is walking…. You cover your head with the blanket….
Grownups don’t want to understand that child answers gentleness with gentleness, and that anger immediately awakens in him something like revenge or spite. As if he were to say, “This is what I’m like and I won’t be any different.”
The three biggest reasons why we don’t like little children are: first, grownups tell us to make way for them whether they’re right or not. Second, grownups tell us to set them a good example. And third, they tell us to play with them, even though they bother us.
My greatest personal worry is that it’s not going well for me in school. I’m forgetting what I knew when I was a grownup…. It’s difficult for me to answer. I’m not sure I know. And I’m afraid that it won’t come out right…. Well, it’s too bad: I don’t know. I don’t understand and I can’t Why do I have to understand? Is there no place at all in the world for a less gifted child?
The teacher was calling me to the blackboard. It was to be a correction. But it got all mixed up inside my head….
“You’ll get another zero!”
I’m not thinking of anything anymore…. And suddenly, a little man appears… swaying a lantern. He’s stroking his white beard.
With a hopeless whisper—through tears: “I want to be big again. I long to be a grownup again.”
I’m sitting behind my desk now. On it there’s a huge pile of notebooks to be corrected. In front of my bed lies a faded rug. The windows are dusty. I reach for the first notebook. There’s a mistake on the very first page. The word ‘Table’ is misspelled. It was written ‘t-a-b-u-l.’ But the letter U is crossed out, and over it is written an E, while on the very top, over the crossed out E appears the letter U again. I take out my marking pencil and in the margin of the paper write ‘t-a-b-u-l,’ tabul.
October 11 is a big day for little girls across the globe. The theme for the International Day of the Girl this year is “My voice, our equal future.” UN Women states that the day “reimagines a better world inspired and led by adolescent girls, as part of the global Generation Equality movement.”
Julieta Martinez, Chile. The founder of the Tremendas Collaborative Platform, Julieta is a climate and gender equity activist.
Latifatou Compaoré, Burkina Faso. She is working to demanding an end to Female Genital Mutilation.
Greta Thunberg, Sweden. She is the person behind the global school strike for climate action, a movement that has attracted teens all over the world.
Samira Mehta, United States. This extraordinary 11-year-old founded Coderbunnyz and Codermindz, board games that introduce children to programming and artificial intelligence.
Millie Bobby Brown, United Kingdom. A leading actor in the series Stranger Things, Millie is also a UNICEF Goodwill Amabassador.
Neha, Nepal. Growing up in a slum in her nation’s capital, Kathmandu, Neha is a girls’ rights and gender equality activist, with a show to end sexual exploitation of girls.
Jakomba Jabbie, The Gambia. She works to advance the education of girls in her country, also encouraging them to embark on careers in the sciences.
Sofia Scarlat, Romania. The founder of Girl Up, an organization for teenagers seeking to prevent domestic and sexual violence, as well as human trafficking.
Two of My Heroes: Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg
Malala spoke with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex. Meghan has devoted her live to the education of girls worldwide. Harry is focusing on climate change. And the two are interconnected. They discussed “the barriers preventing 130 million girls from going to school and why it’s essential that we champion every girl’s right to learn.” The Malala Fund “breaks down the barriers preventing more than 130 million girls around the world from going to school.”
Greta Thunberg earned Time Magazine’s coveted Person of the Year; which honored her in a beautiful article. “We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she says. Though her actions have inspired teens across the globe to start school climate strikes in their countries, Greta says. She is dedicated and she is humble. “I am not the leader the face of the climate movement,” she says. “I am just one of many faces.”
Girls like Greta are advocating for the rights of girls everywhere, so that the girls of the future will be able to change the world.
“Can you tell me, in your own words, how you see the climate crisis affecting your country? What do you see is happening?” The following nine courageous children give their obseravations:
Greta Thunberg, Sweden
Alexandria Villasenor, USA
Catarina Lorenzo, Brazil
Carlos Manuel, Palau
Timoci Naulusala, Fiji
Iris Duquesn, France
Raina Ivanova, Germany
Raslene Jbali, Tunisia
Ridhima Pandey, India
The children speak of cyclones, forest fires, droughts and floods, hot summers and quickly melting snows. They speak of lost memories, stolen childhoods. Seeing these cataclysmic events, these teens were compelled to take action. Agile social media users, the children saw that it isn’t just their homes being destroyed. Severe climate events have been impacting communities around the world. “I just wanted to contribute and help out,” And who inspired them? Greta Thunberg. “She’s not afraid to speak up for what she believes.”
“I couldn’t understand why everyone else was just continuing like before,” says Greta, “not doing anything, not caring about this.”
The nine children speak of adults not taking them seriously, much as they are not taking climate change seriously. Adults need to know the climate science.
Yet, they are in solidarity with young activists around the world. After all, they say, we all live on the same planet.
“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis.
According to the C.R.C., “…the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community.”
Specifically, Article 6 declares that the signatories (1) “recognize that every child has the inherent right to life” and (2) “shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.”
They are fighting to make the world a livable place not just for themselves, but for all people.