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Classrooms Without Borders

Comparing Poland yesterday and today based on daily themes such as a thousand years of Jewish life in Poland; dilemmas surrounding life and death and bearing witness; and personal reflection and soul searching are just a few of the ways teachers will focus on the history of the Holocaust. Accompanied by a Holocaust survivor, teachers will view Poland, its people, its government and socioeconomics in unique ways that will increase their understanding of the value of diversity and the results of prejudice. This experience is powerful and life changing. It offers a distinctive view of the history of Poland, its current position in global relationships and how genocide remains a reality today in third world countries.

In advance of travel, teachers will engage in 5 pre-departure workshops that will focus on relevant topics designed to give them baseline knowledge and information to create context for the seminar.

As a follow-up to the seminar, teachers will meet for 2 workshops to share the instructional materials that they designed for their students and to further reflect on their experience. Teachers are eligible to receive 3 Act 48 Credits or 90 Act 48 hours of continuing professional education through Allegheny Intermediate Unit #3 for a minimal fee.

Teachers will also receive a Resource Book especially compiled for the seminar that includes timelines, maps, historical documents and statistics as well as thematic articles relevant to each day's activities. It also includes site specific articles that offer additional information that teachers can draw from as they develop unit and lesson plans for their students. Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland immerses teachers in Poland and its culture and thus Poland becomes an interactive textbook supported by the knowledge and skills of a highly qualified scholar and personal travel guide.

Although the seminar answers many questions that students of history pose, numerous other questions are raised by virtue of the mini-lectures and follow-up discussions.

Some of the questions raised by this seminar are:

  1. Why were the Germans the main perpetrators and why were the Jews the main victims?
  2. What is the roll of traditional anti-Semitism, prejudice and racism in enabling the Nazis to implement the Final Solution?
  3. What kind of leadership evolved among the perpetrators and the victims and what were some of the dilemmas they faced?
  4. How did the relationship between Jews and Poles before, during and after the War impact their mutual perceptions and roles in the Holocaust?
  5. How diversified was Jewish culture in Europe on the eve of World War II? How did this manifest itself religiously and politically in Poland?
  6. What lessons does the Holocaust teach us for the future and how can we implement them?

The major purposes of this seminar are to:

  1. Examine and discuss how and why the most civilized nation in Europe attempted to eliminate the Jewish people
  2. Understand the dynamics of how a totalitarian regime operates
  3. Define the moral and ethical dilemmas facing both the victims and the bystanders in the Holocaust and identify the lessons learned
  4. Study the pre-World War II interrelationships between diverse cultures in Europe, utilizing the Jewish model as a key empirical case.
  5. Compare and contrast the dilemmas of diversity in modern Europe with what is happening in the United States today
  6. Examine the characteristics of Polish and Jewish culture, their cross-fertilization and interaction from the beginning of the modern era until today
  7. Enable educators to create classroom programs, activities, unit and lesson plans that will reflect the knowledge and experience they have acquired so that their students will be more informed about the causes and outcomes of the Holocaust

For more information email melissa@classroomswithoutborders.org


Monday June 30th – arrival and orientation - Warsaw
  • Sites: Jewish Cemetery at Otopowa st. (Gesia), Nozyk synagogue, Old Town of Warsaw
  • Overnight Warsaw
Tuesday July 1st – Warsaw
  • Sites: Janusz Korchak orphanage, parts of the Ghetto, Jewish Historical Institute, Jewish Museum
  • Overnight Warsaw
Wednesday July 2nd – Warsaw + Treblinka
  • Sites: Umschlagplatz, Mila 18, Rappoport Memorial, Treblinka
  • Overnight Warsaw
Thursday July 3rd – Lublin, Maidanek
  • Sites: Maidanek, Lublin town center + debriefing
  • Overnight Lublin (same hotel out of town as two years ago)
Friday July 4th -  Auschwitz
  • Sites: Auschwitz and time allowing – Salt Mines, dinner at JCC in Crakow
  • Overnight Cracow
Saturday July 5th – Cracow
  • Sites:  Old Cracow – Wawel Castle + St. Mary's Church, Free time + debrief Auschwitz,  Festival at night.
  • Overnight Cracow
Sunday July 6th – Cracow
  • Sites: Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter), Ghetto area, Schindler's factory, Plashow concentration camp and Final dinner
  • Overnight Cracow
Monday 5 July 7th – Flight home


2016 Poland Seminar Video Directed by Emmai Alaquiva


2014 Poland Personally Video Clip


Poland Personally: 2014 Full Length Movie


Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Educators 2012

Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Students 2012

Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland


What our participants have to say...

Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland was extremely powerful and in many ways transformational. It turned out to be one of the most moving trips of my life. I knew that visiting the sites in Poland with a Holocaust survivor, Howard Chandler, would be very difficult emotionally, but its impact was even stronger than I had foreseen. Visiting the camps and the ghettos and hearing Howard’s explanations brought the experience to life in a way that nothing else could. Coupled with our group discussions, the experience helped me move from the abstract to the concrete and feel and visualize what the Jewish community of Europe went through in an unforgettable way. This on-site visit allowed me to identify with those historical events in a way that nothing else could. I was traveling with my son, Ben as well.  Being able to share this with him was very special and the shared experience, difficult as it was, fortified the bond between us.

Dr. Mark Frisch / Duquesne University
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

The most intense ideas or experiences from Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland are impossible to choose because traveling with a Holocaust survivor and doing the things planned was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I’d say that, if I had to choose, the most moving experiences would be between hearing Howard Chancellor’s stories in the barracks of Birkenau, bonding with him and the others, learning all I could from Avi and the Reform Shabbat service at the Galicia Museum with a Reform congregation that was the only one in Krakow only two years old. After this experience,  I can’t understand how Holocaust education can happen without going to the sites. I look back and my whole Holocaust education in school seemed black and white, two dimensional. There is something to be said about seeing that wild flowers grow in concentration camps after all that had happened. It is incredibly important to view the amount of human hair and collection of prosthetic legs and crutches that are exhibited behind glass at Auschwitz and to experience the human connection felt from the group hugs and sharing these moments together with everyone.

Jesse Blank / Student / Winchester Thurston Student
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland far exceeded my expectations!  Classrooms Without Borders definitely put together a extremely organized trip with a very thorough itinerary and great resources. We not only studied history, we witnessed history in the making on a number of occasions. The diversity of the group was amazing. The information that Avi, our scholar and guide, taught us blew me away. Having Holocaust Survivor, Howard Chandler, and his family with us meant a lot to me.

There are so many stories to take back to my students and so much to discuss about what Poland is like today. We will discuss how groups in society interact and what we need to do to understand each other and live together, why conflicts result in societies and when conflict resolution does not work, the ethical issues-why we need to speak up, what makes a “righteous person”? How should we study the Holocaust?

LuAnn Warner-Prokos / Teacher / St. Andrew’s School, Boca Raton, FL
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Being in a place of such overwhelming sadness was the hardest part of my participation in Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland. For as challenging as it was to walk in the footsteps of those who had been slaughtered – to see what had become of once proud Polish Jewish communities and imagine what it was for innocents to be forced to step out of a cattle car and be marched straight into a gas chamber – the most difficult thing was to be hopeful in the face of such heartache.

Traveling under the auspices of Dr. Tsipy Gur's Classrooms Without Borders, ours was an intergenerational, interfaith group of forty educators and students, who only one week ago returned from Poland, sight of the worst example of human depravity in historical memory. Just over seventy years ago, the German Army marched across this ancient, beautiful land, systematically tearing asunder the fabric of a nation, killing some 6,000,000 Poles, 3,000,000 of whom were Jews.

There is still a great deal more to be unearthed and revealed, to be sure, but the prevailing discovery the participants of Classrooms Without Borders made is that if one is unwilling to give in to despair, and will expend the effort, there are indeed divine sparks to be found where once an all-but-consuming darkness reigned.

"Where can God be found? Jewish sources ask. Wherever one lets God in, comes the timeless reply. Even in Warsaw, Lublin and Krakow. Even in the presence of the ghettos, gas chambers and crematoria. Even in the face of the memory of the terror that was Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even here. This was the healing, holy takeaway from an otherwise heart-rending journey. Po-lan-ya. Even here, our best hope for the next generation lives.

Read the complete article

Rabbi Aaron Bisno / Senior Rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Squirrel Hill
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

Dear Tsipy,

After viewing the piece about your inspiring work on WQED the other evening, I wanted to let you know how much you have changed my life. I met you at the Holocaust Center in 2004, and you helped me to get funding for my trip to Poland in 2005 with you. Since then, I've attended both the Belfer and Next Step Conferences at the USHMM in addition to any other workshop or conference available in the area. In addition to teaching about the Holocaust in my classroom, I've presented to various community groups. Last week I conducted a workshop at the National Catholic Education Convention held here in Pittsburgh. Many people approached me from all over the country who are also interested in spreading the stories and lessons of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Education has become my passion. I've continued to grow a small library of books and videos to share with kids and adults alike. I spend hours watching video and researching online to enhance lessons and find new material.

Thank you so much for changing my life. Please continue to inspire others as you did me.

Sally Gooch / Teacher
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland