Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jan Karski and the Kosciuszko Foundation

The Great Crusade isn't just about gaining acceptance into the Peace Corps. It's the totality of what makes up the effort to make a career change, one from the doldrums of business to one where the topics discussed are so thought-provoking and inspirational, it depresses me to think just how much longer I have before 'change' can occur.

Today I attended an event at the Kosciuszko Foundation on the Upper East Side about Jan Karski, given that 2010 is the anniversary of his passing. Announced during the panel was a four year commemoration project currently in the works which will honor the heroics of this man during the war. The four year span covers the 10th anniversary of his death whereas 2014 covers the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Under the auspices of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the program will entail cooperation between the museum, corporate partners, VIPs such as Bill Clinton, who was a student of Karski's at Georgetown University, and most importantly, an educational component. The latter piece is perhaps the most critical given the dearth of common knowledge out there about who Karski was and what he attempted to accomplish, both among the American public and among the Polish people.

One of the panelists and author of this book, Laurel Leff, discussed at length America's lackluster response to the Holocaust as it was unfolding, both at the government level as well as in the media. Leff's book investigates how the NY Times consistently buried the story of the Holocaust well within the paper, like on page 36 for instance, rather than giving it the coverage it needed to drive outrage and action.

During the Q&A session, I asked if the program would include a formal volunteer program and was told that while the program is still in its infancy, volunteers would be welcome.  Helping to get the word out about Karski and what he stood for, in a world where mass atrocities against minorities are more common than not, is a worthwhile venture.

I was also shocked to hear that in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, one of the largest Polish neighborhoods in the country, there remains a healthy level of anti-Semitism among the Poles living there. This was only one person saying this, so I'll take it with some grain of salt, but suffice it to say, it would be absolutely unforgivable for Poles to come to a city with a large Jewish population and continue to carry with them whatever it is that they think is wrong with the Jewish people. But like I said, it's one person, and it's not like there's anything in the news that suggests tension between Poles and Jews living together in Brooklyn.

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