Tadeusz Kosciuszko 3rd Public Elementary School, Pultusk, Poland – June 5, 2019 (AM)

by George J Elbaum

Pułtusk, a town 43 miles north of Warsaw with a current population of about 19,000, has existed since at least the 10th century.  It’s one of the oldest cities in Poland, and due to its Italian-influenced architecture, canals and floating gondolas it became known as “Little Polish Venice”.  The favorable placement of the town on the Narew River, where grain and other goods were transported to the port of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea, contributed to the town’s growth and importance.  On the other hand, during the millennium of its existence Pułtusk was possibly the most invaded town in Poland.  Despite the extent of the destruction, especially during World War II, the town has been reconstructed and is now one of the most recognized and admired tourist destinations in the region because of its historical and unique architecture.  Before the start of World War II Pultusk’s Jewish population was about half of the town’s total 15,000.  However, on September 7, 1939 the town came under the control of the Nazis who, within the month, deported the town’s Jews to concentration camps from which none ever returned.

The Tadeusz Kosciuszko 3rd Public Elementary School in Pultusk has an enrollment of ca. 700 students in grades 1 to 8.  The school was established immediately after World War II in a former court building, and it has been quite active in educating its students about tolerance and history, including its current participation in the School of Dialogue program.  The School of Dialogue program at Pultusk is coordinated by English teacher Sylwia Narwojsz, who also organized my talk which was attended by 50 students in grades 7 and 8.  Also in attendance were Małgorzata Załoga, supporting teacher in primary education, and Aneta Szymańska, a Leader of Dialogue from Pułtusk whose efforts are focused on discovering and restoring Jewish heritage in the region – she  invited us to lunch on our next visit to Pultusk, and considering her tremendous enthusiasm, how could I but accept 😊!  The Forum for Dialogue’s Marta Usiekniewicz and Hanna Gospodarczyk accompanied me to Pultusk and provided translation as needed.

 

the school’s welcome, with Aneta Szymanska – Thank You!

the audience

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Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. Romualda Traugutta – June 4, 2019 (PM)

www.Traugutt.edupage.org/?&lang=en

by George J Elbaum

XLV Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. Romualda Traugutta….(awaiting input to complete the text)

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The British School, Warsaw, Poland – June 4, 2019 (AM)

by George J Elbaum

The British School Warsaw was founded in 1992 and has become the leading international school in Warsaw, delivering high quality innovative education in a rapidly changing environment.  Its current enrollment in Year 1-13 is 1152 students, of which 42% are Polish.  Based on a foundation of British culture and the pursuit of excellence, the school takes pride in its history and heritage.  This is evidenced in its curriculum and uniforms, its discipline, culture and values. Like the best British schools globally, it challenges its students to live by its values – “Respect, Honesty, Diversity and Community.”

The school’s modern facilities include classrooms, science laboratories, indoor and outdoor play facilities, sports halls, art rooms, music technology suite and practice rooms, and mobile computer facilities linked to a fully functional wi-fi system across the school.

The high academic standards of the school are demonstrated by the fact that since 2001 The British School Warsaw has delivered the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, facilitating entry for its graduates to the finest universities worldwide.  The school’s IB Programme is centered in the IB Learning Centre for senior students.  Another example of its academic achievement is its collaboration with top international universities in specific areas such as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).  Specifically, MIT provides The British School with STEAM challenges developed by MIT professors, and which it uses to guide its STEAM curriculum and engage as many students and grade levels with these challenges as possible.

My talk to Year 9 students was organized by Richard Bridges, the school’s Head of History, and was also attended by Paul Mitchell, Head of Year 11 and Math, and Rob Prokic, Head of Year 9 and Math.  It was arranged by Violetta Tarnowska, who arranged my first talk in Warsaw at her school in 2014 and many subsequent talks.

starting the talk

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XXX Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. Jana Sniadeckiego, Warsaw, Poland – June 3, 2019 (PM)

(Text and photos coming soon)

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Warsaw Montessori Middle School, Warsaw, Poland – June 3, 2019 (AM)

by George J Elbaum

Warsaw Montessori Middle School (WMMS) is structured on Maria Montessori’s belief that “The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency toward creative work, and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.”  As such, the school sees its two-fold role of informing its students (ages 12-18) and strengthening them.  “Informing” includes not only academics but also daily living skills and experiences in a society of adults, and “strengthening” their moral development in personal responsibility and leadership, honesty, fairness, compassion and integrity.  WMMS also understands the adolescents’ needs of emotional protection during their transformation to adulthood and of understanding the adult society which they will enter, all the while having a heightened sensitivity to any criticism.   WMMS seeks to accomplish all this not only in classrooms but also through field trips into nature, real and meaningful business projects such as running a kitchen and its microeconomics, and by providing self-expression through music, poetry and arts.  As a strong sign of its quality, WMMS is followed academically by the Warsaw Montessori High School, which is currently a Candidate for the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program.

The current enrollment of WMMS is 58 students in grades 5-8, of which approximately 80% are Polish students and 20% foreigners.  My talk at WMMS was organized by Ewa Stawecka, the Director of Warsaw Montessori High School and its IB Program.  After introducing me, she started our event by screening a short documentary film showing Jewish life in pre-WWII Warsaw, whose  population of 1,300,000 in 1939 was 30% Jewish.  That entire world and almost all those lives were tragically erased by the Nazis within 5 years.  My talk was arranged by Violetta Tarnowska, who arranged my first talk in Warsaw at her school in 2014 and my subsequent talks in Warsaw.

introduction by Ewa Stawecka, Director of Warsaw Montessori High School (WMHS)

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Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA – May 17, 2019

by George J Elbaum

This is the third year of The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) program of student tours organized around a current exhibit and paired with talks by Holocaust survivors, which are arranged by the Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS).  These talks offer the students a unique opportunity to connect art, architecture, and history, to humanize historical events and cultivate empathy and to strengthen links between past and present, and it is the 6th time that I have spoken as part of this program.

The CJM current tour and talk, Resilience, Holocaust, and the Architecture of Life, asks the question: “How do we move forward from the past while vowing to never forget?”  The architecture of The CJM is a testament to history and resilience: it is a celebration of life and strength designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, a child of Holocaust survivors, with deeply embedded Jewish symbolism and meaning.  A first-hand testimony by a Holocaust survivor (me on this day) is at the heart of this 2 ½ hour Museum experience, which includes an exploration of the symbolism of The CJM’s architecture through the lens of resilience and artistic reflection as well as a gallery experience and an art workshop.

Today’s participants were 10th grade students from Arroyo High School  in San Lorenzo, CA, led by teacher Jorja Santillan.   This talk was actually a fortuitous and very welcome event for me: in each of the previous 7 years I had spoken to her students at Arroyo but later in the school year, and when she asked me to return for the 8th time, I could not as I had already made arrangements to be speaking in Poland that week.  Thus, when Penny Savryn of the JFCS Holocaust Center asked me if I could speak to Arroyo students at the CJM, I jumped at the chance and immediately asked if the teacher guiding this group would be Jorja Santillan.  The reply was “Yes” and rest was today’s unexpected and wonderful reunion at the CJM.

This year the audience was 65 10th grade students studying the Holocaust-based unit taught by teacher Jorja Santillan, who accompanied the students to the CJM together with teacher Rangel Hernandez and security guard Laura Noddin.  Based on my previous visits, I knew that the student audience would be enthusiastic and well-prepared, and once again I observed how Jorja’s enthusiasm and energy transfer to her students, whom she prepares and guides through the history and ramifications of the Holocaust.   In her own words: “It’s so important that they understand how complex the Holocaust is through different stories, and how crucial it is that this history be kept alive.  I tell my students that now it’s their responsibility to carry it on along with their own histories.”

Today’s event was organized by Cara Buchalter, CJM School Programs Manager, who, prior to introducing me, engaged the students in an excellent dialogue on the meaning of social resistance and encouraged them to speak up and resist when faced with prejudice and injustice in our society.  Luz Brown, CJM Technician, managed the audio-visuals of my presentation and took all the photos (below).  Also attending the talk were the CJM staff personnel Emily Breault, Ron Glait, and Isobel Aveston.

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Carlmont High School, Belmont, CA – May 14, 2019

by George J Elbaum

Carlmont High School (its campus straddles the adjacent towns of San Carlos and Belmont) has an enrollment of approximately 2200 students of high diversity – 50% White, 22% Asian, 18% Hispanic, 6% two or more races.  Its Great Schools Rating is 9 (out of 10) overall and 10 for academic performance – its College Readiness score is 69% above state average, and its SAT test scores in English and Math are respectively 68% and 82% above state average.

The audience for my presentation was mostly 10th graders taking the Modern European History class taught by teacher David Braunstein, who organized the event and invited other teachers and their classes such that over 150 students participated in it.  His students read about Auschwitz, Treblinka, forced labor, Dr. Mengele’s medical experiments on prisoners, and they discussed the importance of learning about the Holocaust “so that no other people have to go through a similar experience.”  My talk was a part of that learning, and David invited his son and his parents, Jacob and Pauline Braunstein, to hear it.  Other faculty participating in the presentation were David’s student teacher Steve Lucchesi, teachers Stephen Lucia and Marcello Dicicco, and instructional associate John Parker Campbell.

Arrangements for my talk were made by Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center.

introduction by teacher David Braunstein

starting….

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