On the way to the Bialowieza forest lies the small village of Orla: a tiny place with an impressive synagogue that rules over the flat landscape. For many years forgotten and misused, in the past decade it gained a new keeper who, in cooperation with Jewish organizations in Poland, local authorities, and descendants of Orla’s Jews, has been bringing back the building to its former glory. Forum for Dialogue is proud and honored to support these efforts.
Marek Chmielewski, who is a member of the Leaders of Dialogue network and the Mayor of Orla, was recently nominated for the POLIN Award presented by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews for his outstanding dedication to the preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland. In a short film, Marek shares his motivations for the work he does in Orla.
Aware of the complexities involved in having a non-Jew in charge of the synagogue, Marek has spent countless hours reaching out to local residents, experts, representatives of Jewish organizations in Poland, and descendants of Orla’s Jews to make sure he is working in a spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding. Himself a member of a religious and linguistic minority in Poland, he is determined to ensure that his Jewish neighbors are properly remembered. In the past years, he has created a monument commemorating Orla’s Jews, published an album featuring photographs of the pre-war community, collected oral histories from elderly residents, and connected with one of the last living Jews of Orla. This fall, thanks to a grant awarded by Forum for Dialogue to members of our Leaders of Dialogue network, he organized a conference aptly entitled “What’s to happen with the Orla synagogue?” attended by experts from all over Poland, as well as local residents and guests.
Though he admits that he does not seem like the obvious choice for a keeper of memory, he relishes in the trust he has been granted by Jews and non-Jews alike, to work to preserve and educate about Jewish Orla. As he notes himself, rather than consistent, he wants to be effective. And he is.
President and CEO Forum For Dialogue
My visit to Orla 2011 – with Marek Chmielewski and Wojciech Kononczuk
Marek Chmielewski, Dariusz Horodecki & Wojciech Kononczuk
On September 23, the City-Municipal Public Library in Nasielsko began a series of library lessons about autumn. On the first day of the autumn calendar, class 3 a came to us with the teacher Mrs. Justyna Jankowska from Primary School No. 1 in Nasielsko. At the beginning of the meeting, we talked about the first signs of fall and changes happening in nature. Children also learned about how animals are preparing for fall and which ones are stocking up for winter. We also talked a lot about birds, those that fly away from us, those that stay with us for the winter, and those bird species that fly into our country to spend the winter with us. Students also learned the concepts: golden polish autumn, mushrooming and migratory birds.
During a library lesson, the librarian ladies read a poem titled to children. ′′ Babie summer ′′ by W ładadys ław Broniewski, Maria Konopnicka’s ′′ Autumn ′′ by J ózef Chechowicz, Dorota Gellner’s ′′ Autumn walk ′′ and also ′′ About Helena Bechlerowa’s hedge and chestnuts Next, it was time for puzzles and movement games in mimicking animals and atmospheric phenomena, which often accompany Polish golden autumn. Then our nice guests took part in the natural knowledge tournament. The answers to the questions asked didn’t give children much trouble. Each participant received a colorful lesson plan as a reward.
At the end of the meeting, students received an electronic library card, which turned out to be quite an attraction for them. We hope that with the books they rented that day, the autumn s’ rage, short and cloudy days will be warmer and happier.