They have spent months planning and creating work packs for each session, which will be happening entirely virtually in the UK over zoom. Up to twenty bar/bat mitzvah aged children in the UK and twenty 15-16-year-olds from one school in Belarus can participate. Each participant has chosen to be part of this non-compulsory programme on the Holocaust. They will learn what happened to the Jewish population of Belarus, their experiences in ghettos, as partisans, what a partisan even is and more. They will then be encouraged to ask questions about themselves, their own family journey and what we can learn from the experience of others. They will learn and openly discuss a different theme each session in a way that is appropriate for their age range.
These children are being called history makers as this is the first time a programme has ever been created like this. It took the partnership of Jewish Child’s Day, The Jewish Chronicle and The Together plan for it to become a reality. There is no Holocaust education in Belarus so finding a school that wanted to engage in this conversation was of the utmost importance. The headmaster of the chosen school in Minsk knows of the importance of learning about the Holocaust, so he wanted his students to have the opportunity the Belarus education curriculum does not provide. He has engaged their Ministry of Education in the conversation, which has the potential of expanding this pioneering programme.
Given the differences in age, knowledge, background and cultural differences between the UK and Belarusian participants, the two groups will have parallel but not identical programmes. Belarusians have far fewer Covid-19 restrictions, so they will participate in person and visit Holocaust sites. There are plans to bring the Belarusian and UK participants together so that there will be an opportunity for the two groups to interact. Due to the language barrier, this session will require a lot of patience and translators, but as the programme was designed as an educational tool for both countries, it would be remiss if they did not learn and participate with one another.
There are still five sessions remaining and so far the feeling, at this early stage, is of excitement. Preliminarily feedback from parents is all positive. The word ‘inspiring’ has even been used. Currently, the biggest take away the organisers want to achieve for all the participants is for this to be a growing experience for them. They want them to gain a sense of perspective greater than themselves that they can take forwards into their lives, long after the programme ends.
Before we know it, it will be time for the next session which is on the theme of identity. As this is such a new and uncharted experience for everyone this blog is the first of a three-part series. We will see how the programme is progressing at its midway point, with a third and final look at the end to find out everything the participants and organisers have experienced through the course of the programme. Once all the sessions have been completed the participants will each write a short personal summary piece which will be incorporated into a travelling exhibition. You will be able to find the nearest exhibiting space to you at a later date so you can, no matter what age, also discover the hidden history of the Jews of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.
To find out more about the Making History Together Programme you can visit our webpage here
Article by Rachel Gordon