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“Stereotype Breakers”. Perception of Jewish community and culture in Poland


Magdalena Fuchs has long been fascinated by the Jewish culture and interreligious dialogue thanks to her cooperation with the Jewish Community Center in her hometown Krakow, Poland. It was only natural then that her idea for the Action Project had to involve education and tolerance. As a lawyer and human rights activist, she knows best the value of teaching solidarity with minority groups and the real danger of hate speech.

Magdalena dreamed up an anti-bias workshop for youth which she would call “Stereotype Breakers”. Focusing on the perception of Jewish community and culture in Poland, she planned activities which would expose and explore lingering cultural stereotypes.

This would lead to a discussion about the phenomenon of “othering”, which creates a distance between us and them, who may look, think, feel or believe differently. She observed young people to be particularly susceptible to pick up negative stereotypes about minority groups, whether overheard at home or seen on the Internet. Nevertheless, they are still at an age when it is possible to reverse notions of prejudice. Moved by the powerful speech of the Holocaust survivor Marian Turski, who urged young generations not to be indifferent, Magdalena wanted to end her workshops by opening up the discussion on what it means to be a passive bystander – and the consequences of such an approach.

It was meeting the representatives of the School of Dialogue run by the Forum for Dialogue during the Humanity in Action Fellowship that inspired Magdalena to conduct workshops with young people. She recalls that it was stressed that the project does not have to be a nation-wide famous initiative to make an impact, because all it takes is changing one child’s attitude to create a ripple effect. She found it very motivating and reassuring.

With the script of her anti-bias workshops ready, established relationships with teachers in Krakow who agreed to implement tolerance teaching activities in their classrooms, Magdalena found herself stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The prolonged school shutdown and challenges of connecting with children virtually unfortunately prevented her from carrying out the project.

Magdalena is currently out of the country undertaking a prestigious internship at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, but hopes to take up the project again when she returns to Poland. Perhaps she could team up with other Humanity in Action Fellows who believe in the power of education to break down barriers and stereotypes? Would that be you?