HY”D Janusz Korczak – 1878.1942

Last photo of Janusz Korczak

TEACHING JEWISH KIDS THEIR HERITAGE was, to me, one of life’s greatest joys; I began doing it for pre-B’nei Mitzvah students (read: 11-12 year-olds) in 2000, retiring when I got sick in 2008. It was the high point of any week; I was continually amazed and enlightened by the students’ curiosity and intelligence. I was grateful to witness and aid young minds in opening, and to be able to tell them that the truth of Judaism demands we think for ourselves.

Sometimes that truth requires some very hard choices. The hardest choice of all was made in August 1942 by Polish teacher Janusz Korczak, who chose to follow (technically, to lead and to comfort) nearly 200 of his young charges from the Warsaw ghetto into the Treblinka death camp. Rejecting friends’ offers to rescue him, Korczak chose not to abandon his kids to their killers.

I did not know about Mr. Korczak until yesterday morning, when our rabbi mentioned him in a sermon. As today is Yom Hashoa v’Gevurah 5770, Day of the Holocaust and Heroes, I wanted to tell you about him now. May we all work to make such choices unnecessary, now and in the future, bimheirah v’yameinu — in speed and in our own days.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

Hannah Szenes 1921-1944

(More on Janusz Korczak at Jewish Virtual Library and The Janusz Korczak Living Heritage Association.)

2 comments for “HY”D Janusz Korczak – 1878.1942

  1. Ron Hodge
    2010.07.03 at 0505

    I am trying to obtain the honourable Dr. Korczak’s prisoner number.


    • 2010.07.03 at 2046

      Thank you for reading my piece on Dr. Korczak z’tl. Unfortunately, I have no further information than what I’ve gleaned here; perhaps you could contact one of the websites referenced in the post?

      Good luck,


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