The Janusz Korczak Association of the USA (JKA-USA), promotes the legacy of Dr. Janusz Korczak (1879-1942), a pediatrician, writer, educator, and humanitarian, who is well known all over the world for his innovative work with Polish and Jewish orphans at two orphanages in Warsaw from 1912 to 1942. On August 5, 1942, Dr. Korczak was taken to the Treblinka death camp, together with his orphans and his staff of nine, and disappeared into its bowels, never to be seen again.
Today, in the USA, with a few dozens members and a few hundred Facebook friends, we are finding ways to bring Korczak’s legacy to public and private schools, after school programs, camps, Polish and Jewish schools and community centers. We write articles, books, offer lectures, workshops, and camp experiences for young people, parents, and educators.
Korczak Movement around the World
After WWII, Korczak’s legacy as an educator and hero grew in Poland as well as abroad. It began in 1946, when the Committee to honor Korczak’s memory introduced pedagogical projects for young people, educators, and parents based on his methodology and life’s work. This organization was followed by Korczak Committee in 1957 and Polish Korczak Committee in 1972.
In 1963, Jerzy Zgodzinski and a group of people who studied Korczak’s pedagogy with him, started Korczakowo Camp near Osno Lubuskie, where every summer, young people from Poland, and sometimes abroad, spend unforgettable vacations in the spirit of Korczak.
In 1997, Polish Korczak Committee became the Polish Association of Janusz Korczak, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote and publicize humanitarian ideas and a vast body of work of Janusz Korczak, educator, writer, journalist, pediatrician, social activist, and above all, defender of children’s rights. In 2003, the Polish Korczak Association became part of the International Korczak Association (IKA). For more information, visit www.pskorczak.org.pl (in Polish). There are now 24 countries in the IKA. Among them are England, France, Germany, Brazil, Canada, Ivory Coast, Japan, Austria, Holland, Israel, and others.
Korczak Movement in the USA
Here in the USA, Dr. Korczak’s legacy was promoted by Professor Millicent Magaliff and Dr. Kurt Bomze, through their Janusz Korczak Society of America, founded in 1991. Professor Magaliff was instrumental in getting the Anti Defamation League to sponsor yearly Korczak Literary Awards in 1990s.
In April 2012, Mariola Strahlberg of Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood, Inc. (a not-for-profit organization for children), officially joined IKA, and in April 2013, in New York City, Janusz Korczak Association of the USA was officially formed. The following people were present at this special event: Joyce Reilly, Tomek Bogacki, Marcia Talmage Schneider, Rivka Halperin, and Mariola Strahlberg.
You can learn about our activities in the “Legacy through Culture” section. Here are some of the highlights of our work:
- In 2013, four young people from the USA participated in the Korczakowo Camp in Poland.
- In 2013 and 2015, we participated in the CATS Youth Conference in Switzerland.
- Marcia Talmage Schneider, in 2015, published her book with interviews of 10 people who spent their young years in the Korczak orphanage.
- Mariola Strahlberg, founder of the Association, in 2016, published her book Five Star Program®: A Step-by-Step Teachers’ Guide to Innovative Classrooms Strategies That Awaken Students Unique Potential. This book provides simple tools for teachers to allow their students to be more focused, calm, and learn with ease.
- In 2015-2016, we offered six sessions about Korczak and his methods to a 3rd grade class at the Polish Saturday School in Mahwah, New Jersey.
- In 2016, Professor Sara Efrat Efron, wrote an essay about Dr. Korczak for the PRISM Journal. PRISM is an interdisciplinary peer reviewed journal for Holocaust educators. Her essay, pages 18-23, titled Janusz Korczak Educator: Teaching Humanity in the Face of Evil, contains illustrations from Tomek Bogacki’s Champion of Children book and Daniel Berek’s private Dr. Korczak’s collection.