We are swirling in a buzz of great excitement right now. The Together Plan team is hard at it, putting together the most incredibly exciting new programme which will bring the story of the Jews of Belarus into the forefront of our understanding of Jewish history. What better way to do this than through the eyes of children.
The story of the Jewish people living in the region that was the Soviet Union is little spoken of, even today. In Belarus, there is no official Holocaust education programme, and many there know almost nothing of the Jewish people who perished between 1941 and 1944. That notwithstanding, we here in the west also know very little. It’s time we talk about this, lest the world will never know this vitally important part of our history.
This is a collaborative project in partnership with Jewish Childs Day and the Jewish Chronicle.
Jewish Child’s Day was founded in 1947 to give Jewish children and their families in Britain the opportunity to help children in Europe whose lives had changed dramatically in the aftermath of the Second World War. Since the inception of The Together Plan, Jewish Child’s Day has supported The Together Plan’s work with children in communities in Belarus. They have always recognised that children are at the heart of the community and that our work to revive Jewish community life in Belarus centres around the work we do with children. The close working relationship between the two charities shows what is possible and achievable when you work together.
So what is the programme?
This is an opportunity for twenty year-7 (children preparing for Bar/Bat Mitzvah in year 8) to become history makers. They will receive 6 information packs filled with things to do, discover and share, which will take them on a journey to understand the history of the Jews of Belarus, where they came from, what they achieved and the amazing contribution they made to today’s Jewish world. By the end of the programme, the participants will be Belarus Jewish experts. Along their journey – they will learn about the Jewish children who perished in the Brest Ghetto in the south of modern-day Belarus – which was Poland in 1941. They will receive copies of the archive records that were created for these children when they became prisoners of the Brest Ghetto and the programme will give voice to these children too. We will try to think about what their lives would have been like, and we will virtually visit the synagogue where these children would have become bar mitzvah. Using the themes that the history presents, through a series of interactive Zoom sessions, the participants will explore themes around Jewish values, Jewish continuity, power and heroes, and so much more.
In Belarus, a school group of children will also participate in the programme. These children will not be Jewish and where most will know about the Great Patriotic War and how Soviet citizens fought and died as brave communists fighting for the motherland, they will not know that Jewish people were specifically targeted. For them, it will inform their own history where they too only know part of the story.
At the end of the programme, all of the children will be asked to write a piece about what they have come to learn. They will be asked to say whether they feel this history matters, should we remember or should we forget, and what does it teach us? Their words will be incorporated into a travelling exhibition in Russian and English, both here in the UK and in Belarus, In Belarus, this will form the basis of the first travelling Holocaust exhibition in Belarus created collaboratively by children from Belarus and from outside the country. As we move ever further away from this darkest period in our history, it is vital that we engage the next generation to hold a candle to the memory of those who perished, and to take ownership of the legacy so that future generations will learn to be the best versions of themselves.
The programme will launch with a Zoom event on January 27th, International Holocaust Memorial Day and run for 7 months. There are 20 places available in this groundbreaking programme which will make history and help to put Jewish Belarus back on the world map.
Click here for more information.