Remembering Dr. Paul Winkler, a Man Who Helped Us All to Remember

This month, we lost another champion of Holocaust studies.  Dr. Paul B. Winkler was in charge of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, a position he used to make this critically important subject available to all New Jersey students, teachers, and adults who wanted to learn more.  He was a strong supporter of the Korczak Society of the USA and presented at many conferences and workshops dedicated to the life and work of Janusz Korczak.

winkler

For more information of this wise and gentle scholar, please visit the page in Dr. Winkler’s honor, at the website for the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.  Baruch dayan ha-emet.

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A Sculptor of Children’s Souls

book review Sculptor Children's Souls biography

This wonderful book by former teacher and scholar Marcia Talmage Schneider, offers details of Janusz Korczak and his orphanage from the perspectives of several orphans and former teachers.

To the children he took in, Janusz Korczak was more than a teacher, doctor, or orphanage director.  He was, in the words of one of the young lives he touched, a “sculptor of children’s souls.”  The teachers who worked for him thought likewise.  Although all of Korczak’s children and staff during the World War II years perished with him at Treblinka, several earlier students and teachers managed to flee Poland and have survived.  Marcia Talmage Schneider undertook the arduous task to locate these survivors, most of whom were living in Israel, to obtain first-hand accounts of Pan Doctor.  By doing so, Ms. Schneider offers a valuable supplement to Betty Jean Lifton’s superb biography, The King of Children.

Although Ms. Lifton’s book is highly worthwhile, interested readers gain a good background knowledge of Janusz Korczak – who he was and what he believed – through Ms. Schneider’s fine preface and introduction.  Numerous historic photographs grace the book, enhancing the reader’s “picture” of Dr. Korczak, the orphans, and Dom Sierot, the orphanage at Krochmalna 92, Warsaw.  Locating the survivors in Israel was a labor of love, involving a great deal of research, especially the archives of Lohamei HaGetaot (The Ghetto Fighter’s House) and Kibbutz Ein Harod, shamor v’zachor, to observe and remember, to which Ms. Schneider adds ten eyewitnesses, as follows:

  • Yitzhak Belfer, one of Korczak’s orphans who went on to become a famous and highly respected artist whose drawings and bronzes highlight the life of Janusz Korczak and his love for children
  • Mira Caspi, an orphan who became a bird enthusiast, a remembrance of the great love Korczak had for the tiny sparrows he fed from the window of his attic office
  • Shevach Eden, a teacher who trained at Dom Sierot, who went on to serve as president of the Israel Korczak Society and write a book (in Hebrew) about the man who had such an impact on his life
  • Yehuda Kahane, who like Dr. Eden was an educator and active in the Israel Korczak Society and wrote a book about the Old Doctor
  • Sarah Kremer, another orphan with a son “just like Korczak”
  • Erna Friedman Lador, a teacher and counselor at the orphanage who became a respected children’s psychiatrist
  • Klara Maayan, a teacher at Dom Sierot who remembered the flowers Korczak gave, forget-me-nots
  • Schlomo Nadel, an orphan who was inspired by Korczak to undertake photography, his profession and life’s passion whose most prized possession was a walnut that Korczak and Stefa gave him
  • Dov Netzer, a retiree whose children and grandchildren would have made Korczak proud
  • Scnuel Nissenbaum, an artist who, like Belfer, devoted many of his sculptures and paintings to the memory of Dr. Korczak.

Each spoke with passion and clarity on what it was like to be an orphan or a teacher at Dom Sierot, adding a personal vision and perspective to all that made Korczak so memorable – the newspaper, the court, Stefa, mealtimes, stories, and summer camp.  The common theme, however, is how Korczak influenced and inspired each member of this diverse group, not only in their professional lives, but also in the way they chose to live and raise their children, their very moral and ethical codes.  It was there, this book makes clear, that Janusz Korczak had the greatest effect.  With Janusz Korczak: Sculptor of Children’s Souls, Korczak is more than a legend; he is a very real person.

An End-of-the-Year Message from Mariola Strahlberg, President of the Janusz Korczak Association of the USA

Dear Supporters of the Janusz Korczak Association of the USA and Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood,

End of the year is the time for gratitude and giving. I am grateful that together we are making the world around us a better place for children and adults. A special thank you to our generous supporters for their amazing donations that allowed us to take 4 teenagers to Poland and Switzerland this year.

2013 was a big year for us. Together, we were able to establish Janusz Korczak Association of the USA, create a Facebook and LinkedIn presence, publish our first newsletter, and introduce many new people to Janusz Korczak ‘s educational ideas and our special way of working with children, parents, and teachers.

There is much more coming in 2014. We hope to add many new people to our Korczak Association. We are planning a one day pilot for a Korczak camp in the US, considering to take more Children to Korczak Camp in Poland and Youth Conference in Switzerland during the summer. Thanks to my association with the Rockland County School Health and Wellness Coalition, I will be bringing the Five Star Program © to the Head Start of Rockland, Rockland BOSCES, and Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Hospital. Plans are also under way for a one-day workshop for NJ school teachers, sponsored by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education to introduce them to Korczak’s pedagogical ideas with specific examples of lesson plans for their classrooms.

The more I learn about Janusz Korczak, the more amazed I am about his insights and the stronger I feel that our work together is of utmost importance. Consider this timely quote that I found on page 142 in “A Voice for the Child,” a collection of inspirational words of Korczak, compiled by Sandra Joseph in 1999:

“Politicians and legislators make rules and decisions about children which often fail to work.
But who asks the child for his opinion or consent?
Who is likely to take note of any advice or approval from such a naïve being?
What can a child possibly have to say?”

At least we can say and show that we do listen to children and try our best to help them. For our work to continue, your generosity is essential. Please consider Janusz Korczak Association in your year-end giving. Rest assures that each of your contributions will help promote knowledge of Korczak and children’ rights in the USA. Please send your tax deductible generous donations to:

Shining Mountain Center
c/o Janusz Korczak Association of the USA
11 Beckett Ct,
Monsey, NY 10952

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful New Year 2014. I look forward to seeing or hearing from all of you soon. To those of you whom I did not meet personally, I look forward to welcoming you in person to our Korczak’s circle in 2014.

For the Janusz Korczak Association of the USA,

Mariola Strahlberg

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