How I “met” Janusz Korczak
It is hard to imagine that I “met” Janusz Korczak for the first time almost 30 years ago. Prior to the first meeting of the Greater Lafayette (IN) Holocaust Remembrance Conference committee meeting, I noticed a poster of a man with piercing blue eyes; the poster hung outside my father’s Rabbi Gedalyah Engel’s office, B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation. I was curious to know who the person was. My father and I did not have a change to have an exchange prior to the commencement of our meeting; instead he asked me to ask another member of the committee. I later learned the story of Janusz Korczak and decided if I ever needed to write a dissertation on such a selfless and amazing person, it would be Janusz Korczak.
Fast forward to Teachers College Columbia University. I am a graduate student in the Department of Curriculum & Teaching. While in the library at Columbia University, in the days of card catalogues, I stumbled across Korczak and decided I would read some of his pedagogy. As I did, tears rolled down my cheeks – I finally found a pedagogist who felt the same way I did about children.
Fast forward to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am furthering my education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. I needed to find a topic for my dissertation. It was an easy task for me; I knew it would have something to do with Korczak. And indeed my dissertation, The Pedagogy of Janusz Korczak in the Hadera Democratic School: Twentieth Century Reform in Modern Israel, evolved. I passed my defense; I was a doctor of philosophy.
Since my return to the United States of America I have continued to write about Janusz Korczak. In addition, I sit on the Board of Directors of Shining Mountain CPC, a center dedicated to Korczak’s pedagogy.