Sunday, May 19, 2013

Life in a Jar -- The Irena Sendler Project

Irena Sendler was a Polish Roman Catholic nurse/social worker who served in the Polish Underground during World War II, and as head of the children's section of Żegota, an underground resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw.

Aided by a number of other Żegota members, Sendler smuggled about 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, provided them with false identity papers and with housing, managing to save those children during the Holocaust.
Some children were smuggled to priests in parish rectories. She and her co-workers buried lists of the hidden children in jars in order to keep track of their original and new identities. Żegota assured the children that, when the war was over, they would be returned to Jewish relatives.
The Nazis eventually discovered her activities, tortured her, and sentenced her to death, but she managed to evade execution and survive the war. In 1965, Sendler was recognized by the the State of Israel as a Righteous Gentile Among the Nations. She also was awarded Poland's highest honor for her humanitarian wartime efforts.
In 1999, students at a high school in Kansas produced a play based on research into Irena Sendler's life story titled Life in a Jar. It has since been adapted for television as The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler. Her story was largely unknown to the world until the students developed The Irena Sendler Project, producing their performance Life in a Jar
This student-produced drama has now been performed over 285 times all across the United States, Canada and Poland. Sendler's message of love and respect has grown through the performances, over 1,500 media stories, a student-developed website with 30,000,000 hits, a national teaching award in Poland and the United States, and an educational foundation, the Lowell Milken Education Center, to make Sendler’s story known to the world.
The Center is a student and teacher think-tank for celebrating unsung heroes in history with exciting projects. Role models in history are used to demonstrate how one person can change the world. Projects are developed all over the U.S. and around the world.
Here is a link to some of the Center's current exhibits.
The Center has now expanded to Europe. The Lowell Milken Center Europe works with schools in Europe to teach respect and understanding among all people, by developing history projects about unsung heroes whose actions promote these values, regardless of race, religion and creed. These projects are in the form of performances, documentaries, websites and exhibits, or other creative ideas.
The Lowell Milken Center Europe discovers, develops and communicates the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history. Through student-driven project-based learning, people throughout the world learn that each of us has the responsibility and the power to take actions that "repair the world" by improving the lives of others.

One can even purchase a book from the Lowell Milken Center about the Irena Sendler Project.

Tikkun Olam/Repairing the World is a strong message of the Center. And consider that it only has to start with one person. Irena Sendler was such a person.