Travel and learn - In conversation with Paul Forgasz

May 19, 2017

Paul Forgasz is well known to the Jewish Museum community as a regular contributor to our adult education program. He also lectures in Jewish history at Monash University’s Centre for Jewish Civilisation. and is a presenter to many Limmud Oz audiences. Paul has also led many study tours overseas, taking us on fascinating journeys of Jewish history, from Poland to Spain, Germany and Austria. Paul will be leading the Jewish Italy study tour in October 2017. We chatted with Paul about his experiences.

How long have you been associated with the Museum?
At least 25 years. The Museum’s adult education program began in 1996 and I was one of the foundation faculty. For a number of years before that I also lectured on a regular basis to the guides

What has been one of your study tour highlights?
In Poland, encountering non-Jewish Poles who are doing some amazing things to preserve the memory of Jewish life in Poland. It’s a bitter-sweet experience. On the one hand, being aware of the total destruction of this once very rich civilisation, but at the same time meeting Poles who feel a sense of loss of what they consider to be part of their own Polish history and heritage.

How does teaching on the go compare to teaching in the classroom?
A particularly exciting aspect of being involved with educational travel is that it enables me, as a tour educator, to bring to life significant historical moments and events in a way that can’t be achieved in a classroom. It’s about the excitement of actually “being there.” Creative re-enactments of events and reading of first hand accounts can greatly enhance the experience of being where it happened

Where in the world do you most love teaching?
I have to say that I am particularly fond of my tour to Spain. Unlike other European destinations, in Spain it was possible to put together an itinerary that followed the fascinating story of the Jews of Spain in chronological sequence. So as we arrived in a particular city it marked the very next chapter of our narrative and people were able to get a sense of an unfolding story. 

What’s on your wish-list of places to visit?
I would love to do a tour that focuses on the remarkable story of the Jews in the United States. I don’t think it’s been tried before. Israel would also present an interesting challenge in terms of putting together a tour which would add both breadth and depth to participants’ appreciation of the many different periods and phases of the country’s history.

What do you never leave home without?
I’m not particularly attached to anything, but I keep being berated by some members of my family for very often not having my mobile phone with me. So perhaps surprisingly, that is definitely not an item that has to accompany me wherever I go.

Click here to book or to find out more about the Italia Ebraica – A Study Tour of Jewish Italy 16-31 October 2017