News & Updates

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New Jersey and Great Teachers

We salute Drew University and the Polish Culture Club for being wonderful hosts in Madison, New Jersey this past week. Nicole Kuruszko and Sophia Chen did an incredible job of organizing and providing a beautiful venue. The Shabbat dinner with the Drew Hillel group was a special experience. Thanks Nicole for bringing us to your area of the world.

Carol Brodsky and the Drew University Center for Holocaust Studies hosted a performance on Thursday. We send a big thanks to Carol and all those involved in this outstanding conference. We shared the stage with some wonderful presenters.

Many comments are coming in from New Jersey:

Amazing performance from such a dedicated group.

I have waited for a long time to see ‘Life in a Jar,’ it was worth the wait.

Irena Sendler’s story is one of heroic action and was almost lost to history, thank you to the Kansas kids and their teacher.

I love the idea of not only the Irena Sendler project, but the unsung hero stories which are being developed at your Center.

It was FANTASTIC to see you and the troop perform- a real dream come true. Thanks for your continuing efforts.

Two weeks ago, the 2010 Irena Sendler Award winner from Poland visited the Lowell Milken Center in Fort Scott. She was selected as a 2013 Lowell Milken Center Fellow. The Fellows are an incredible group of educators. Marzanna Pogorzelska is making a tremendous difference in teaching human rights, Holocaust education and unsung hero stories in Poland. She was an inspiration to everyone, with great ideas for the Center. She will be collaborating on projects during the coming year and future years. Marzanna has been recognized with numerous awards in Europe, and now in the United States.

Life in a Jar was performed at Homestead High School in Ft. Wayne, IN by McCutcheon High School Drama students, a collaborative cast of the program, on October 25th. The performance was sponsored by Homestead High School and the Ft. Wayne Jewish Federation. A wonderful fellowship dinner preceded the performance and future possible collaborations were discussed between Homestead and McCutcheon. A special thanks to Vicky Malooley and Jon Baker, Homestead’s drama and history teachers, for their warm hospitality. The McCutcheon students were grateful that they could help “repair the world” and share Irena’s story to the Ft. Wayne community. Thanks to McCutcheon teacher, Stella Schafer, for directing this collaborative group.

Irena Anniversary and Life in a Jar/Irena Sendler Project Book

October 20, 1943 (69 years ago tomorrow)- Irena Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo.

By early 1944, she was rescued from Pawiak Prison by the underground organization, Zegota. Even though she was tortured she refused to reveal the location of the lists or the jars.

Are you searching for a perfect Christmas gift? The Life in a Jar: Irena Sendler Project book was #2 on Amazon.com last week, among the over 6,000 Holocaust books. This is a gift of hope, courage and repairing the world.

Jack Mayer, author of Life in Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, sends news that the book has been highlighted and recommended by One Thing New – an online newsletter for creative arts.

This note comes from Leeds, England. Dear Mr Conard

Just a short note to thank you and all those involved in bringing the story of Irena Sendler’s heroism to the World. I have been a scholar and historian of the Holocaust ever since I made a traumatic visit to Auschwitz in 2008. Since then I have studied the history of the Holocaust in great detail, but had not come across Irena Sendler in my studies. What brought her to my attention was the DVD “A Courageous Heart.” Since viewing that I have read the book “Life In A Jar” and followed this up on various websites. What you and the students have achieved is nothing short of miraculous……thank you so much.

Regards,
Bill Phipps Leeds, UK

One of the Life in a Jar stars, Jaime Walker Berndt (she plays the Jewish mother, Mrs. Rosner), is in charge of minority programs for the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City. We are proud of the great work she is accomplishing!

Frank Family Foundation Donation to the Irena Sendler Award

The Tulsa Community Foundation is pleased to grant the sum of $10,000 through the Frank Family Foundation, for the Irena Sendler Award. This award honors elementary and secondary teachers who teach tolerance and respect in their communities.

The Life in a Jar Foundation salutes this gracious gift and thanks Brad Frank, Advisor to the Frank Family Foundation.

Irena Sendler Book

Dear Family and Friends,

I am pleased to announce that Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project has received a third book award, the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Biography. (http://indiereader.com/) Please continue to share this story with people you know. As a self-published author, I depend on you to spread the legacy of Irena Sendler and the Kansas students.

The book is available at bookstores, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as Kindle, Nook, and iBook formats and at www.irenasendler.org. The book award was announced at the Book Expo America in New York City, last Sunday.

Thank you for your support, encouragement, and assistance.

My best,

Jack Mayer

Nashville

Life in a Jar presented at The Temple on Harding Road in Nashville, Tennessee last week. What a thrill it was to share with the congregation a candle lighting ceremony at the community wide Yom HaShoah Observance. The ceremony involved Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors. We have received many emails from the large audience.

The extraordinary story of Irena Sendler and the Life in a Jar students continues. We appreciate the words from the Temple;

The performance was wonderful. They are amazing young people, all of them, and they continue to bring their light and Irena’s into this world.

Also:

People have not stopped talking about the program and how wonderful and moving it was.

Another email:

Life is sacred, our survivors and Irena Sendler testify of this.

Additionally:

The play was so well done, so special in every way.

We offer many thanks to Rabbi Mackler and Lynda Gutcheon, plus many others who made our stay such a nice one. The Temple is involved in many programs to ‘repair the world.’

Bartoszewski’s 90th and Notes

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski’s 90th birthday is being celebrated in Poland. Born in 1922 and imprisoned in Auschwitz, he eventually was released and joined the Polish resistance. In late 1942, he was one of the youngest organizers of Zegota, the organization involved with the rescue of Jews. He later became the Polish Foreign Minister. We (the Life in a Jar students and Mr. Conard) remember sitting in his office after his 80th birthday and asking him what status Irena Sendler had in Zegota. He put his hand high in the air and said, “She was here and the rest of Zegota was way below, she was a hero of extraordinary measure.” Life in a Jar/the Irena Sendler Project salutes this noble rescuer on his 90th birthday.

While mentioning the former Prime Minister, we think of two child survivors from Irena’s network, Renata Zajdman and Elzbieta Ficowska. Both are enjoying some time in Florida this month, staying with friends. Renata and Elzbieta have been a major part of telling Irena’s story and also working with Life in a Jar.

With the passing of survivor Lou Frydman comes this note.

Dear All,

Lou was one of my professors at the School of Social Welfare at KU in Lawrence. We were friends with him and his family while I studied at KU. We remained friends and we also met in Poland where Lou and Jane spent a sabbatical. I was also born in Poland and we visited in Warsaw – and just around the corner of where I met Irena in 2006. Jane (Lou’s) also wrote to us about Lou’s passing. We’ve lost one of the wonderful persons who was close to Irena when both could have met in the Ghetto. With my best wishes to your entire LIfe in a Jar team! Keep up the great work!

Joachim Weiler
International Social Workers Organization

This note comes from our friend, Michael Triason, in Warsaw.

I’ve come to realize that the Life in a Jar students are also saving lives. There are two deaths for everyone and everything: the physical death and then, when the memory dies, there is a second death. By keeping alive the memory of those who were lost, as well as those who were saved, and of Irena Sendler herself, your students are, in their way and in their time, saving lives Its true! But for Norm Conard and what he did as a teacher to his students, the story of Irena would not be known as it is today. Kol hakavod to all, God Bless America where Christian students from America’s heartland with the guidance of a teacher could tell this story and could adopt it as passionately as if they had been there. That Irena’s story was miraculous goes without saying. That the teacher and his students are not considered a miracle is the very reason the United States of america is a miracle!!

Shabbat shalom.

Michael

The Life in a Jar/Irena Sendler Project book was listed as the 9th best selling Holocaust book on Amazon this past week. There are about 4,000 Holocaust books listed on Amazon. Four of those ahead of us were Anne Frank books, another was Night by Elie Wiesel and another was The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Irena’s/Life in a Jar’s impact continues to spread.

Below is Rachel Hopkin’s expression, a former student at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Indiana. She is currently enrolled in theater at Ball State University. She performed with the Life in a Jar cast at the Indiana Children’s Museum.

I hope to use my life to make a difference. I have been involved in theatre and have been acting since the age of five. I have taken multimedia and television classes and I hope to use my media knowledge and acting experience to study telecommunications and youth ministry. I want to create movies and multimedia entertainment with a positive message that encourages young people to make a difference in the world. I have participated in a theatre program that the Greater Holocaust Foundation of Lafayette sponsors and we perform plays that bring awareness about the Holocaust. One thing I have taken from this experience is the Hebrew phrase, “Tikkun Olam.” It means, “To repair the world.” I want to repair the world with my productions.

News Article

The following article was published last week by Lawrence Haas.

During the Holocaust, this Catholic social worker saved 2,500 Jewish children from certain death by convincing their parents, who were trapped in the Warsaw ghetto, to let her smuggle their kids to gentile families on the outside.

She risked her life every day for months, sneaking the kids out of the ghetto by, for instance, hiding them in ambulances and trucks. She was finally caught and tortured by the Nazis, escaping the firing squad only because her colleagues on the outside paid an extraordinary bribe to let her flee at the last minute.

Now, here’s the kicker:

If you’ve heard of Sendler, it’s likely because of an extraordinary high school history teacher – Norm Conard – in a small town in southeastern Kansas and three of his students who worked on a project about her for National History Day in 2000.

Sendler’s story, the students’ story, and the link between the two are told in an inspiring book, Life in a Jar, that I read only because my wife’s friend recommended it to her and she passed it on to me.

I’m grateful that she did.

The story begins at Uniontown High School in late 1999 when Liz Cambers, 14, was thumbing through a file of news clips to find an idea for the National History Day project when she noticed a U.S. News and World Report from 1994, “The Other Schindlers,” that summarized Sendler’s story in a few paragraphs. Intrigued, she chose Sendler for the project and found two other students – one 14, one 16 – to help.

For months, they researched Sendler’s story relentlessly, spending hours on the phone and in libraries across Kansas and creating a play that they called “Life in a Jar.” That’s because Sendler, who wanted to make sure the children’s Jewish names were not lost to history, wrote them on slips of paper and, with each rescue, inserted the paper into a jar that she buried near an apple tree.

After a dress rehearsal of the play in the high school gym that brought its audience to its feet, they won first prize at the district competition in Columbus, KS. Then, while revising and rehearsing the play in early 2000 as they prepared for the state competition – which they also won – they learned from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in New York that Sendler was alive; she was 90 and lived in Warsaw.

They wrote to her, and she wrote back (in Polish) – beginning her letter with the words, “My dear and beloved girls, very close to my heart.” From her letter, the students learned that the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem named Sendler a “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1965; a tree was planted in her name in Israel in 1983; and Israel made her an honorary citizen in 1985. None of that brought her much notoriety back home, however. It was the three students – all Protestants, by the way – who would do that.

They didn’t win the National History Day competition in Washington, but by now the play was much bigger than a history project. They performed it for Holocaust survivors at the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and for synagogues, churches, schools, and civic clubs across the Midwest. Newspapers began to write about the students and their play, and they soon recruited a manager to handle their travels.

As audiences stood to applaud, many of them weeping, Conard would ask audience members what had moved them to such emotion. One said, “Protestant girls from rural Kansas, rescuing the story of a Catholic social worker from Poland who rescued Jewish children from the Nazis. It gives me hope.”

One night, a businessman who saw the play invited the girls to dinner, learned that they were trying to raise money to visit Sendler, and, two days later, called to tell them that he had raised the money for them.

Arriving for what would be the first of several trips to Poland, the girls became celebrities in this foreign land, appearing on CNN and Polish and European TV; sitting for interviews with international and Polish newspapers; visiting Auschwitz, Treblinka, the former ghetto, and other historic sites; and performing the play for Holocaust survivors, rescuers, and others. On this trip and later ones, they had several moving visits with Sendler before she died in 2008 at the age of 98.

What, in the end, had these girls and their inspiring teacher accomplished?

Consider this: When they began their research, they could find just one internet reference to Sendler, from Yad Vashem. Since then, according to the March 2011 edition of the book Life in a Jar:

  • The website www.irenasendler.org has received 25 million hits;
  • Sendler has been honored by numerous major organizations across the world;
  • Poland’s President bestowed the nation’s highest honor, The Order of the White Eagle, on her in 2002;
  • Israel’s Prime Minister and Poland’s President nominated her for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007;
  • The Hallmark Hall of Fame produced a 2009 film, “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sender,” that was shown across the United States on CBS; and
  • The National Bank of Poland minted a coin in late 2009 with images of Sendler and two other brave women with whom she worked during the Holocaust.

“History is not history,” the chancellor of Purdue University-Calumet, Howard Cohen, said at one showing of the play, “until it is written or told.”

Three high school girls in a remote part of Kansas told history and, in so doing, made history as well.

Lawrence J. Haas was Communications Director and Press Secretary for Vice President Al Gore. He writes widely about foreign and domestic affairs.

70 years, Israeli Defense Forces, Life in a Jar in Indiana

On January, 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler’s second in command of the SS, convened the Wannsee Conference in Berlin with 15 top Nazi bureaucrats to coordinate the Final Solution (Endlösung) in which the Nazis would attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe, an estimated 11 million persons

On the 70th remembrance–Never Forget Irena Sendler and her network had already started the rescue operations in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Here is a beautiful note from Israel:

Dear Life in a Jar; Thousands of grandsons and granddaughters of hundreds of saved children will be forever thankful! May you rest in peace, dear friend, Irena Sendler. With love, soldiers from Teleprocessing Branch, C4I Corps – Israel Defense Forces

Here is a clipping about the collaboration between McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, IN and the Lowell Milken Center in Fort Scott, KS as part of Northwest Indiana’s Books to Bridge the Region program. We’d like to give a big salute to teacher Stella Schafer and her students.

Baby and the Silver Spoon

Seventy years ago today a baby was born in the Warsaw Ghetto. Her parents commemorated her birth by engraving a silver spoon with her birthdate – 5 January 1942 – and her name – Elzbieta. Irena Sendler rescued Elzbieta 5 months later, just before the liquidation of the ghetto, by smuggling her out in a carpenter’s box. In that box, along with their baby, her parents put the silver spoon, which, to this day, is the only physical remains of her family. Elzbieta grew to become an important civic leader in Poland, she befriended the Life in a Jar Kansas students who rescued Irena Sendler’s story, and continued to care for her rescuer, Irena Sendler, until Irena died in 2008.

Happy Birthday, Elzbieta!

‘Life in a Jar’ Presentations

What a wonderful audience it was in Orange, CT, as we shared Life in a Jar and Irena Sendler’s story of courage and valor with Congregation Or Shalom. Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus and his congregation were great hosts and a large crowd was present, as Norm Conard spoke on Unsung Heroes, Life in a Jar, the Irena Sendler Project. We’d like to thank U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and State Representative, Paul Davis, for their involvement. Plus, we appreciate the State General Assembly of Connecticut for their resolution on our behalf. Fern Tausig did an excellent job of organizing the event. This was Or Shalom’s 5th annual commemoration of Kristallnacht and the largest crowd yet. This event is a testimony to the power of one person to change the world. We salute this congregation’s statement of Tikkun Olam.

Irena’s story and the Life in a Jar book will be featured in a panel on Wednesday night, November 9th, at 6:30PM, at the 60th Annual Detroit Jewish Book Fair in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The JCC hosts the oldest and largest book fair in the nation. The panel will include; child survivor – Rene Lichtman, author – Jack Mayer, Life in a Jar Foundation Director – Norm Conard and child survivor saved by Irena Sender – Renata Zajdman. We are looking forward to a powerful evening.

The 299th presentation of Life in a Jar will be presented in La Jolla, CA this Sunday afternoon, November 13th. Life in a Jar will present at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. Presentation time is 3:30PM. Contact person is: Marcia Wollner, marcia@ajesd.org, at 858.268.9200-ext.123. The Life in a Jar performers are directed by founders, Megan Felt and Jessica Ripper. These young people are still committed to making a difference in the world.

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