New mini-term: learning, service and goodwill in Eastern Europe

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By Anastasia Pease

Last spring, History Professor Steve Berk and I were approached by Dr. Michael Lozman, a local activist interested in restoring Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe. These cemeteries were abandoned during the Holocaust, when Jewish communities were decimated. Many people were sent to death camps or forced to flee.  After the tragic events of the Holocaust, some cemeteries have been neglected or forgotten.

Working with several colleges, Dr. Lozman and his team have already restored numerous cemeteries in Belarus, and he has approached Union to join his efforts.He hopes to turn next to Lithuania, a small EU country near the Baltic Sea.  Lithuania will assume EU presidency in the second half of 2013, around the time the first Union mini-term is planned to take place. My colleagues and I plan to take students first to Poland, where the worst of the Holocaust occurred, then to Lithuania to restore a cemetery and make goodwill visits in both the capital, Vilnius, and a small village nearby.

As soon as I heard about this project, I enthusiastically agreed to be its faculty sponsor.  A mini-term like this would surely be profoundly educational and unforgettable! My colleagues and I need to recruit at least 16 students who are passionate about history, unafraid of hard work and eager to make a real difference in the world.

The new Poland and Lithuania mini-term will have three components. The first component is learning history: the students will visit Krakow, Warsaw, Vilnius and see the Auschwitz and Treblinka memorial sites. For the second component—service—the group will go to Lithuania and restore an abandoned Jewish cemetery. For the third component—goodwill visits—students will stay with local families in Lithuania. They will eat, work and play alongside the locals, making friends and collecting memories. They will visit fairs, theaters, restaurants and cultural events. Most importantly, the students will witness the progress that has been made in Eastern Europe since World War II and help a community come to terms with its past.

My colleagues and I envision this mini-term as both interfaith and cross-cultural. Anyone who is eager to learn and to work is welcome to apply.

Interested? Come to one of the info sessions: Friday, Oct. 26, 12:50-1:50 p.m. (common hour) or Friday, Nov. 2, 3-4 p.m. in Humanities 1123

 

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