As another Jewish year comes to a close we take a moment to stop and look back at what we have achieved over the last twelve months. At The Together Plan, our dedication to growth is unwavering and we firmly believe in the necessity of constant advancement. As we continue to pursue our mission of fostering the renaissance of Jewish community life in Belarus, with a focus on cultural heritage and education, we take immense pride in our accomplishments. In light of this we would like to take this moment to present to you a selection of this year’s noteworthy achievements and significant milestones.
We took Holocaust education to a whole new level
Last November we launched our ‘Making History Together’ travelling exhibition. The exhibition (6 panels, each 4 metres wide by 2.4metres tall), was the result of months and months of intensive research, planning, writing, checking and designing. It was born out of ‘Making History Together’ a unique education programme which was created in 2020 to explore what happened to the Jews in Belarus between 1941 and 1944. This history is underexplored and little known, yet critical to Holocaust education as a whole.
The exhibition panels are themed and interactive, meaning that users can scan embedded QR codes with their mobile devices to watch films and find out more information. The exhibition has been travelling to schools and synagogues and is receiving fantastic feedback. A Russian language version of the exhibition is in design and will shortly be available to travel to schools, libraries, synagogues and universities in Belarus which is a first. No other Holocaust education tool such as this has ever been made available in Belarus.
Click here to see the exhibition on the day of the UK launch
We were incredibly excited to have Leo Levine, the co-creator of the Making History Together programme and exhibition, recognised at the JVN awards ceremony in January.
In July, the Making History Together programme (a unique and age appropriate introduction to the Holocaust and journey of self-development for thirteen year olds in the UK, and education programme for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 in Belarus), completed its third year with great success. In 2024 we will be offering the programme as a parent and child together experience and as we move into a new academic year, conversations are now in place to run a pilot in-school programme which will be a very exciting development. We are also looking forward to taking the exhibition on the road to the north of England.
For more information on the programme and how to apply for 2024 which will run from January to June, please click here.
We participated in four major conferences:
The AEPJ Incubator Conference in Izmir, Turkey – November 2022
The Together Plan is a member of the AEPJ – the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Heritage and Culture. The AEPJ heads the network of heritage practitioners who are working together to build the European Route of Jewish Heritage, one of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.
Annually – the AEPJ runs a conference which brings together the representatives of the network with the National Library of Israel and the Scientific Committee of the AEPJ for training and to collaborate on the development of the European Route of Jewish Heritage. In November, 2022, the conference was held in Izmir using the Izmir Route of Jewish Heritage as a model for study and learning. This was an extremely focused and fascinating conference where skills were honed and connections were developed.
AEPJ European Days of Jewish Culture Coordinators’ Conference at Le Memorial de la Shoah, Paris
Debra Brunner, Artur Livshtys our Belarus Country Director and our Chair of Trustees, Mike Segall, travelled to Paris in March 2023 to participate in the Coordinators’ Conference to explore the topic of ‘Memory’ which is the theme of this year’s European Days of Jewish Culture festival which begins on September 3rd. This was a superbly run, immersive and deeply thought provoking conference which brought participants together from acoss the whole of the landscape of Europe.
Following our attendance at the conference the weeks and months following involved discussions and planning and it was decided, in light of the fact that the theme of the festival this year is ‘Memory’ we would hold two events in Minsk as part of the European Days of Jewish Culture Festival 2023 to mark the 80th anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk Ghetto. Moreover we are incredibly excited that the European Days of Jewish Culture Festival has been awarded the patronage of UNESCO.
To read more about the new UNESCO patronage and our events click here.
AJR Conference – Lancaster House, London
In April, Debra Brunner attended the Association of Jewish Refugees’ International Forum on Holocaust Testimonies in partnership with the British government and the German Embassy at Lancaster House, London. The conference focused on the importance of collecting, preserving, and disseminating Holocaust testimonies and brought people together from all over the world.
International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies’ Annual Conference, London
From the 31st July to the 3rd August we exhibited at the IAJGS annual conference at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel. Debra Brunner presented at the conference among a superb line up of fascinating speakers. The conference afforded the opportunity to network with people from across the globe, attend talks and build connections. We were able to showcase the work we are doing in Belarus and our archive service was of particular interest.
We launched a digital heritage collection, a project funded by the European Union
As part of our membership of the AEPJ, we benefit from opportunities to participate in exciting heritage projects. One such project was the opportunity to apply to become a partner in the Jewish Heritage Network’s digital project to create a collection on Europeana – the platform that is funded by the European Union to host Europe’s digital cultural heritage collections.
The project involved training one of our team in Belarus to become skilled in photography and then sending him around the country to capture high resolution images of Jewish heritage sites. We carried out historical research to be able to create and add the metadata for each of the images and then we input the information for the online collection onto the system that had been created for the project. We worked closely with the team at the Jewish Heritage Network to build the collection and their guidance was invaluable. We are delighted that the collections are now on Europeana. You can read more here.
Here is one of the digital assets in the collection:
Click here to find this image on Europeana
We completed the translation of a second book about the Minsk Ghetto
In 2020, at the height of COVID, we began to work on the translation of a second book about the Minsk Ghetto. This has been a three year project, to translate and edit, manage the queries arising from the editing, carry out historical research to support the translation, design a book cover and add a names index. This work has now been completed and the book will be with the publishers in the coming weeks. ‘Anna Machiz, Testimonies of Tragedy and Resistance in the Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943’ is being published by the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project and will shortly be available to buy online or from The Together Plan.
We planned, researched, created and published three more audio tours for the Belarus Jewish Heritage Route
In 2022, with thanks to the AEPJ and the Jewish Heritage Network in Amsterdam, we received training on how to build audio tours. As a result of that training, last year we launched two audio tours – the Jewish Streets of Minsk and the Jewish Streets of Polotsk. Over the last twelve months, we have continued to build our skills and have launched a further three audio tours – Jewish Novogrudok, Jewish Resistance Museum and Places of Rembrance in Novogrudok.
Through our initiatives, individuals and communities in Belarus are coming together to explore, research and document their local Jewish stories, the buildings with Jewish provenance and discover who were the individuals who lived and prayed there. All of the information that we are collecting and discovering will be used as part of the Belarus Jewish Heritage route.
We have supported the development of three Jewish heritage clubs in Belarus
This year we supported Jewish heritage clubs in Minsk, Gomel and Polotsk. This is a community building initiative that we devised as a way to bring people together to commune around the Jewish history and heritage of the Jews of Belarus. These clubs also have a youth element which has been supported by our partner charity in the UK Jewish Child’s Day, which saw the First ever youth Jewish heritage conference. The conference was supported by the Dutch Humanitarian Fund which took place in Minsk and brought young people from Jewish communities in Belarus together for the first time. The conference was a great success with the Mogilev Jewish community expressing a desire to also create a Jewish youth heritage club.
We sent 13 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Belarus
In February, we loaded 13 tonnes of humanitarian aid to communities in Belarus. This aid is delivered to socially and economically underprivileged communities all over Belarus and enables us to allocate much needed resources and Judaica to many of the Jewish communities. As a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine, the costs relating to this project rocketed and we were faced with some serious questions as to whether we would be able to send the aid that we had been collecting. However, with support from funds raised at an event at the Beth Meyer Synagogue in Cary, North Carolina and a donation from Nashville, Tennessee which reached us via our sister charity in the USA, Jewish Tapestry Project – we were able to send the aid as planned. We are eternally grateful for the support that ensured the aid was delivered. Continued support will enable us to keep sending the aid and right now – we are sorting and packing donations. It’s business as usual.
This project is run by a hugely valued team of dedicated volunteers and we were incredibly proud when the Aid Together team were recognised at the JVN annual awards inJanuary 2023.
Members of the Aid Together team, among other charities, being recognised along with other charity organisations, at the JVN Awards January 2023
Artur Livshyts – The Together Plan’s co-founder and Belarus Country Director became the interim Chairman of the Jewish Religious Union of Belarus
Our co-founder and Country Director, Artur Livshyts, has filled us with immense pride by assuming the role of Interim Chairman for the Orthodox Jewish Religious Union of Belarus earlier this year. This esteemed position bears significant importance, carrying the weighty responsibility of supervising the administration of 17 Jewish communities across the nation.
Artur’s belief and dedication to the support of nascent Jewish communities in Belarus has always been his passion, but it has not always been an easy road. His tenacity, drive and will has brought him to this point and we know that The Together Plan has played an important role in supporting his journey. As a charity whose mission is to empower and capacity build – we are delighted to see this development taking place.
We brought the only Jewish newspaper in Belarus to the attention of the National Library of Israel.
‘Berega’, Belarus’s only Jewish newspaper, has been in circulation since 1999. It is little known as a publication outside of Belarus. As part of our membership of the AEPJ, we have a direct link to and support from the National Library of Israel and so we brought Berega to the attention of the library who were thrilled. We arranged for a number of digital back issues to be sent to the NLI where they are now archived and accessible to the wider Russian speaking community.
We have been running a series of talks to commemorate the escape from the Novgrudok Labour camp – the longest escape tunnel dug in World War Two
Throughout 2023 – we have run a number of online talks to mark this incredible escape, planned and executed by Jews under the noses of their Nazi guards. September 26th marks the 80th anniversary of the escape and we will have a virtual event with guest speaker Betty Cohen, the daughter of Fania (Fanny) Dunetz Brodsky, one of the escapees from the Novogrudok Forced Labour Camp in Belarus. Betty is the author of “Tunnel of Hope: The Great Escape from the Novogrudok forced Labor Camp” which is due for publication this autumn. For more information – click here.
On October 29th, we will conclude this series of talks with an online event in partnership with the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum in Israel.
We have worked with our international team to create a stunning design for the Brest-Litovsk Jewish Cemetery Memorial
Our international team located in Belarus, the UK, Texas and Los Angeles have been working tirelessly to produce a stunning design which will soon be revealed as we put the final touches to this amazing campaign together. This is an incredible project of vital importance which will memorialise the lost Jewish community of Brest-Litovsk and will make an indelible mark on the European Jewish landscape and tell a story that has been suppressed for too long. A very exciting kick-off for and the unveiling of the plans for the memorial campaign is in production and we look forward to bringing this to you in the coming months.
The mark of a truly impactful organisation lies in its ability to adapt and persevere, even in the face of challenges. We believe that we have demonstrated this resilience time and again, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and again when the war between Russia and Ukraine started in 2022. With creativity and determination, we swiftly shifted our operations to continue delivering support to vulnerable communities. From virtual education initiatives, to continued support for Holocaust survivors, projects for community members of all ages and the delivery of humanitarian aid, our adaptability showcases our unyielding commitment to our mission.
Our achievements to date are a testament to the power of unity, compassion, and collaboration. Through education, survivor support and sustainable initiatives, we have created a positive ripple effect that extends far beyond our immediate beneficiaries. As we reflect on our journey of empowerment and transformation, we like to think that we stand as a beacon of hope, inspiring all to join hands and work towards a brighter and more inclusive future. None of this would be possible without the support of our donors, supporters and partners and of course our incredible team and amazing volunteers in the UK, in Belarus, in the USA and beyond.
Thank you to all of you who make it all possible and we look forward to the next exciting twelve months as we continue the journey – together