Life in a Jar and the Syria Connection

Thursday evening at the Leawood Pioneer Library (7 PM) we’ll discuss “Life in a Jar: The Irene Sendler Project” by Jack Mayer. This fascinating book is relevant today, especially in light of events in Syria. I’d suggest a few questions for discussion:

  1. Do you believe “Who changes one person, changes the world whole.” a quote from the Jewish Talmud?
  2. What single event in the book had the greatest impact on you? Describe and explain.
  3. Did you find the background on the three Kansas students who started the Irene Sendler Project distracting, unnecessary, essential or complementary to the story?
  4. On page 29, Mr. C. says, “But people like Oskar Schindler and Irena Sendler – they are the people we all wish we could be – ordinary people who made a big difference. And so can you. Anything you do to repair the world is heroic.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Have you seen examples of this principle?
  5. Irena’s Father tells her, “There are two kinds of people in this world, good and bad. It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, what religion or race. What matters is if they are good or bad.” (page 88) and later, “Always remember, my darling Irena. If you see someone drowning, you must rescue him, even if you cannot swim” (page 105). Would you share the same advice with your son or daughter?
  6. On page 134, the author states, “Every Pole’s worst nightmare was Gestapo interrogation; and everyone had some secret or another – everyone was a criminal. Who could predict their tolerance to pain and fear of death?” Why was “everyone a criminal?” Can you image living in that type of society? Could you survive?
  7. Is there a lesson to be learned from the Irena Sendler story that applies to the current crisis in Syria?
  8. Dr. Korczak (page 141) tells Irena, “The Hebrew Talmud and the Kabbalah speak of 36 righteous people for whose sake God keeps the world alive, even in the most barbarous of times. None of the 36 knows that they are one of the righteous. As a matter of fact, if someone claims to be one of the righteous they are almost certainly not, for they lack humility. So in our blessed ignorance we are all encouraged to act as if we are one of them. Perhaps you are one.” What is your reaction to the two parts of that statement? That is, the statement about God and the world and the declaration that Irena may be one of the 36.
  9. There has been so much emphasis related to the Holocaust that “the world must never forget” and that survivors must “bear witness.” Have we forgotten? What will happen once the last survivor perishes?
  10. When audience members viewed the Life in a Jar play and were asked why it had such impact, many responded, “Protestant girls from rural Kansas, rescuing the story of a Catholic social worker from Poland who rescued Jewish children from the Nazis. It gives me hope.” If the story had an emotional impact on you, is that the reason?
  11. Irena often said she did what she did because it was a “need of her heart” (page 256). What do you think she meant?
  12. Have you visited a Holocaust museum or memorial? What do you remember the most?
  13. On page 341 as Megan’s mother (Debra) is dying of cancer she says “There’s always suffering, darling…. You don’t pray to Jesus to make everything better or to get what you want. That’s what children do – it’s a magical way of thinking. Every time you walk into church, the first thing you see is a man on a cross. He died to save us – not to give us everything we want – to save us. That’s what’s so hard to understand. It’s not about Him answering your prayers – it’s about you being like Him no matter what happens on this Earth. ‘Thy will be done.’ There will always be sadness and pain.” How does that mesh with your understanding of pain, suffering, the power of prayer and your own spiritual journey?
  14. The ultimate and most personal question when reading “Life in a Jar” is: If you lived in German occupied Poland in the time of Irena Sendler, what would you do?

I hope to see you Thursday evening.


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