a complex web woven through time, and a time to reimagine
By Debra Brunner
In the heart of Europe lies Belarus, a country often overlooked in discussions about history and culture. For me, Belarus became a canvas on which I painted a connection with its Jewish community, a relationship that led to the creation of The Together Plan’s Making History Together programme and travelling exhibition. This initiative, designed for young learners aged 12 and 13, aims to unearth untold Jewish stories, particularly focusing on the history of Russian Jews and its profound connection to antisemitism, pogroms, the Holocaust, Zionism, and the establishment of Israel.
the genesis of Making History Together:
My journey began in 2009 when I ventured to Belarus to meet with a Jewish community fostered through a twinning programme. Little did I know that this initial encounter would spark years of travel, deep connections with Holocaust survivors, and the development of programmes aimed at amplifying the voices of the Jewish people. The untold stories were numerous and I discovered a country filled with neglected cemeteries, abandoned Jewish heritage buildings, suppressed histories during the Soviet period, and the remnants of a once vibrant Jewish life. The journey that began in 2009 led to the founding of two charities, The Together Plan UK in 2013 and Jewish Tapestry Project USA in 2021.
discovering hidden narratives:
As I delved into the historical tapestry of Belarus, I uncovered memoirs of Holocaust survivors, written in obscurity, and I realised the urgency of translating these accounts. These narratives, previously destined to be forgotten, shed light on the suppressed history of Russian Jews spanning centuries. It became evident that understanding this history is pivotal to comprehending the roots of antisemitism, the path to the Holocaust, the emergence of Zionism, and the establishment of Israel.
a connected context:
The history of Russian Jews is intrinsically linked to the broader narrative of antisemitism. By examining this history, we gain insights into the factors that led to the rise of discrimination against the Jewish community. The Making History Together programme, born out of these realisations, seeks to present history in a connected context, allowing young learners to grasp the interwoven threads of the past.
championing critical thinking:
While exploring historical narratives, the programme goes beyond rote learning. It aspires to nurture critical thinking skills among young participants. It encourages them to embark on a journey of exploration, to question preconceived notions, to discover hidden truths, and ultimately, to reflect on their own identities and roles in society.
empowering the next generation:
The Making History Together programme, created by The Together Plan, is a call to action for young minds to be proactive in shaping a future free from prejudice and discrimination. By equipping them with a deep understanding of history and honing their critical thinking skills, the aim is to empower the next generation to become advocates for tolerance, compassion, and unity.
As we unravel the stories hidden in the annals of history, it becomes clear that antisemitism is not an isolated phenomenon but a complex web woven through time. The Making History Together programme is a beacon of enlightenment, guiding young learners through the interconnected history of Russian Jews and antisemitism, fostering a generation capable of challenging prejudice and championing a world built on understanding and acceptance. Sound bites and social media are not the solution.
In an era characterized by the instantaneous spread of information and the ease with which divisive narratives can be amplified, the imperative to equip the next generation with essential skills has never been more pressing. The digital landscape, often a breeding ground for hate, fear, and misinformation, demands that we empower young minds with the ability to discern truth from falsehood, to navigate the complexities of our human-created world with intelligence and resilience.
As we witness the rapid dissemination of narratives that seek to instill mistrust and sow seeds of division, we must recognise the urgent need to cultivate a generation capable of critical thinking, empathy, and informed decision-making. Rather than succumbing to the dangers of clickbait culture, our focus should shift towards providing the tools necessary for the younger generation to safely navigate this intricate terrain.
The responsibility lies not only in recounting historical narratives but also in fostering a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of our global society. By imparting the skills to analyse, question, and think independently, we empower the youth to resist the allure of misinformation and make choices that contribute to a more harmonious world.
It is time to reimagine education as a beacon of enlightenment, arming the next generation with the ability to discern truth, foster unity, and navigate the complexities of the digital age responsibly. In doing so, we not only prepare them for the challenges of today but also empower them to shape a future built on knowledge, compassion, and collective understanding. After all, in this interconnected world, the key to progress lies not just in the information at our fingertips but in our capacity to use it wisely and empathetically.
The Making History Together travelling exhibition has been invited by Newcastle City Council to be part of their Holocaust Memorial Day events in 2024, click here for the full programme. For the past 18 months we have been working on the design and creation of the Russian language version of the Making History Together exhibition which will be available in Belarus in early 2024.
The Together Plan is a member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Heritage and Culture (AEPJ) which is working to build the European Route of Jewish Heritage, one of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes