The London-based Foundation for Jewish Heritage, together with Centropa, co-led the ‘Integrating Jewish Heritage into the Educational System’ conference, 26-27 February 2023, at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow Poland.
Held for representatives of teacher training bodies from seven Eastern European countries, it considered how the often orphaned Jewish cemeteries in the region can become ‘outdoor classrooms’, educating pupils on the forgotten Jewish stories of their towns. Part of a wider European Union funded project with the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESIF), its focus is the protection and promotion of Jewish cemeteries in Poland, Lithuania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Hungary and Georgia.
In addition to presentations and group discussions, attendees heard a keynote address by Professor Joanna Michlic on the potential for teaching on Jewish history and heritage in the seven countries concerned. The conference also included a tour of Jewish Krakow and a guided visit to the Jewish cemetery in Miodowa Street.
The conference summary recognised the challenges of limited flexibility in the various national curricula, and schools working in a wider environment that may not be sympathetic to promoting the topic of the Jewish legacy. It was noted that whether the subject was taken up was often down to enterprising and persistent individual teachers. Those were the ones creating innovative approaches including making use of Jewish cemeteries as an effective way of introducing the former Jewish life in these communities.
Dame Helen Hyde, Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage commented, “it was very special to meet with those involved in shaping the educational practices in countries where there had once been major Jewish communities and who were now trying to find ways of ensuring the Jewish life and contribution forms part of the formal schools programme.” Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, added, “it is always moving to meet people from countries like Moldova and Georgia who, with limited resources, are committed and passionate about preserving the Jewish experience and ensuring it features in the national story as reflected in the schools’ curriculum.”
The conference programme is available below.