JBuzz News April 25, 2013: First look inside luminous Museum of the History of Polish Jews




First look inside luminous Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Source: Jweekly.com, 4-25-13

“This was a world in color,” said Jewish studies professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, speaking of the 1,000-year Jewish presence in Poland, “and not the black and white we know from photographs.” She made her point last week in Warsaw….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 2, 2013: 11,000 youths to attend March of the Living for Holocaust Remembrance Day




11,000 youths to attend March of the Living

IDF chief of staff, Israeli ambassador to Warsaw, to join Jews from around the world at Auschwitz concentration camp to mark Holocaust anniversary.

Source: JPost, 4-2-13

March of the Living in Polish cemetery

March of the Living in Polish cemetery Photo: Yossi Zeilger

Eleven thousand young people will take part in this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day activities at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland under the auspices of the March of the Living program.

The participants, who are mostly Jewish, hail from over 50 countries, including Morocco, Turkey, France, the United States and Canada, said march spokesman Yoram Dori.

Among those participating in this year’s remembrances at the death camp will be IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, former chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and Zvi Ravner, Israel’s Ambassador to Poland….READ MORE

JBuzz News October 28, 2012: For growing number of Polish gentiles, Jewish culture seen as part of their own heritage




For growing number of Polish gentiles, Jewish culture seen as part of their own heritage

Source: JTA, 10-28-12

Marek Tuszewicki is doing doctoral work at the Institute of Jewish Studies at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, teaches Yiddish at the Krakow JCC, and leads a club that brings together those who like to sing Chasidic songs and read Yiddish literature.

He also co-founded a Jewish literature and art quarterly called Cwiszn and publishes articles and poems in Yiddish.

There’s just one thing: Tuszewicki is not himself Jewish….READ MORE

Historical Museum in Lodz: Polish museum opens exhibit October 2 on Warsaw Ghetto Uprising leader Marek Edelman




Polish museum opens exhibit on Warsaw Ghetto Uprising leader

Source: JTA, 10-5-11

A Polish museum has opened a section dedicated to Marek Edelman, one of the commanders of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis.

The exhibit at the Historical Museum in Lodz opened Oct. 2, two years after Edelman died at the age of 90.

Edelman, a cardiologist by profession, lived and worked in Lodz after World War II, and the exhibition is arranged to evoke his home and office. The display uses his furniture, books, photographs and other objects.

A longtime human and social rights activist, Edelman joined the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in 1980 and was interned by Poland’s Martial Law authorities. After the fall of communism, he served as a member of Parliament and was awarded Poland’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the White Eagle, as well as the French Legion of Honor.

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett: The Woman Behind the Polish Jewry Museum




Source: The Forward, 8-3-11

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has many titles: award-winning author, essayist and New York University professor, among them. Most recently, she’s been tapped to lead the core exhibition development team for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is now being built on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, and which recently made headlines with the surprise departure of its longtime director.

Long associated with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett worked with Polish-born scholar Lucjan Dobroszycki on the landmark 1976 exhibition “Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life Before the Holocaust,” which later was made into a book and a film. Her latest book, “They Called Me Mayer July” (University of California Press, 2007), was a collaboration with her father, Mayer Kirshenblatt, who died in 2009 at the age of 93. It combined Kirshenblatt’s paintings depicting prewar life in his hometown of Opatow, Poland, with stories gleaned from interviews that his daughter began conducting with him in the 1960s.

Forward contributor Ruth Ellen Gruber caught up with Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in Krakow during the Festival of Jewish Culture and asked her about her Yiddish roots, her most enduring project and the current morale at the museum….READ MORE

Ruth Ellen Gruber: In summer, Jewish studies flowers in Eastern Europe




Source: JTA, 8-1-11

In Austria and Poland recently, I couldn’t seem to get away from students, scholars and just plain interested folks who were taking or teaching summer programs in Jewish studies.

Visitors to the Auschwitz Museum Memorial in Oswiecim, Poland, enter the Arbeit Macht Frei gate on a rainy day. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

I myself spoke at a three-day “summer academy” in Vienna where more than 100 members of the general public turned up for lectures by international experts on Eastern European Jewish history.

In both Vienna and Krakow, I met informally with some of the 71 teachers from Jewish and public schools in North America and Israel attending a nine-day summer academy of lectures, travel and workshops organized by the Vienna-based Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation.

The programs reflected the remarkable resurgence of both Jewish informal learning and academic studies that has taken place in Europe since the fall of communism. This process has opened up opportunities and fields of scholarship to new generations of students and researchers. It also has gone some way toward repairing the damage wrought by the Holocaust.

About 750 institutions of European Jewish learning were “lost forever” in the war, according to the European Association of Jewish Studies, with many cities experiencing a “near total devastation of their Jewish studies resources.” In postwar communist Europe, teaching and research in Jewish and Holocaust studies was virtually taboo.

The pace of reconstruction has varied from country to country. But today the European Association of Jewish Studies lists nearly 450 academic institutions and universities in two dozen European countries where Jewish studies courses or classes are taught. Many other programs are associated with non-academic bodies.

Summer programs have a special place in this scheme, as they often are geared specifically to visiting foreign participants. Some of them, such as the 5-year-old Leo Baeck Summer University at Humboldt Unviersity in Berlin, are organized in partnership with North American or Israeli institutions.

The benefits of study abroad programs are well known: exposure to other cultures and languages, contact with new ideas, the opportunity to forge international connections….READ MORE

Obama Lays Wreath at Warsaw Memorial

Source: JTA, 5-31-11

President Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Poland’s capital city.obama warsaw ghetto

Obama was joined at the May 27 wreath-laying ceremony by members of the local Jewish community and Holocaust survivors. In the 1943 uprising, lightly armed Jewish fighters battled German forces trying to liquidate the ghetto for nearly a month.

Politico reported that a woman attending the ceremony raised the issue of Israel with Obama, telling him, “It’s the only Jewish state we have, and we trust you,” to which the president responded, “I will always be there for Israel,” an exchange picked up by a microphone.

Obama visited the ghetto uprising memorial an hour after arriving in Warsaw and shortly after participating in a wreath laying at Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His two-day visit to Poland marked the final stop on his European tour.

Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska-Gross: Poles ready to face dark past of profiting off Jews

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 3-9-11

Poles are ready to face their dark history of profiting off Jews during World War II, according to the author of a book on Poles who sought financial gain amid the suffering of the Holocaust.

‘Golden Harvest,’ by historian Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska- Gross, narrates how some Poles living near death camps like Treblinka dug through mass Jewish graves after the war in search of gold and other valuables that the Nazis might have missed.

The book is likely to touch a nerve in Poland and stir controversy in the nation that prides itself for having aided Jews during the Nazi occupation.

But Gross says his new book, to be released in Polish on Thursday and in English in October, will prove less controversial than his previous works on the topic.

Poles are now ready to face their dark past because enough time has passed to look back honestly at history, Gross said, and because more has now been written on the topic.

‘I hope this time we’ll be in a different point of the discussion,’ Gross told German Press Agency dpa. ‘Years have passed and now there has been a lot of writing on this subject. It’s a different state. I think the public is much more receptive to it, and my voice is not a lonely voice.’…READ MORE

Jonathan Webber: Pepperdine’s ‘Traces of Memory’ exhibit reveals Poland’s Jewish past, heritage

Source: Malibu Times, 2-9-11

A courtyard in Rymanow, Poland, from the book, “Traces of Memory,” from which photographs are now on display at Pepperdine University’s Payson Library. Photo by Chris Schwarz

The most impacting portion to the Payson Library exhibit is dedicated to Holocaust sites of massacre and destruction. Upcoming events and speakers tied to the exhibit take place the end throughout February.

“Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland,” opened last week in Pepperdine University’s Payson Library. The exhibit, the first of its kind displayed in the campus library, portrays recent images of Polish Galicia in Eastern Europe, as photographed by Chris Schwarz, a late British photojournalist.

At once stark, historical, current and contextual, the objective behind the exhibit was to examine the reclaiming of Poland’s Jewish past and heritage, said Jonathan Webber, an Oxford University professor whose book “Rediscovering Traces of Memory” documents the journeys across Eastern Europe that he and Schwarz embarked upon during the course of a dozen years.

“The idea of this exhibition was to cover a number of emotions and feelings. You just can’t stereotype Poland and say, ‘It’s all in ruins, or it’s all gas chambers,’” Webber said during a phone interview from England last week. “You have to look at that they have gone back to these places and have tried to restore what was before.”

Webber and Schwarz, who died four years ago, undertook the assignment in 1993. The results portray a Poland deteriorated, though sometimes unchanged, since the devastations of World War II….READ MORE

Jerzy Halbersztadt: Cornerstone laid for Museum of Polish Jews

Source: AFP, 6-30-09

The cornerstone of the long-awaited Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a major step towards reviving Poland’s Jewish heritage after the Holocaust, was laid in Warsaw on Tuesday, organisers said. In the works for a decade, the long-awaited multi-million dollar, multi-media facility is expected to open its door in 2011. “Prior to the Holocaust, the Shoah, Warsaw was one of the world’s main centres of Jewish life where politics, culture, publishing and Jewish theatre thrived — in fact it was the leading centre, surpassing other cities in the US and Europe,” project director Jerzy Halbersztadt told guests at the site.

During the Holocaust, the district was inside the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, where all told Nazi Germany imprisoned more than 400,000 Polish Jews, many of whom died of starvation or disease or were sent to death camps. The bricks used as the cornerstones came from the World War II-era foundations of the last headquarters of the Council of Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, the scene of a famous wartime uprising, Halbersztadt said.

“So we have come full circle and beginning the construction of the museum is also an element of closing this circle,” he added. Led by the Jewish Fighting Organisation (ZOB), the doomed World War II rebellion was among the first armed insurgency by partisans against the Nazis in all of occupied Europe. The museum will face the imposing monument dedicated to those who died in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Cantors, or Jewish liturgical singers, from around the globe sang at the foot of the black marble monument Tuesday as part of the ground-breaking ceremonies.

“It’s surreal to be here — this (Warsaw) was the epicentre of cantorial music in the early 1930’s and 40’s,” president of the international Cantors Assembly, David Propis, from Houston, Texas, told AFP. Around a hundred cantors from the United States, Canada, various European states and Israel will sing in the Polish National Opera in Warsaw Tuesday evening, reviving the art of Jewish liturgical song nearly wiped out in Poland by the Holocaust. Designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamaeki and Ilmari Lahdelma, the façade of the future museum will be symbolically ruptured, opening onto undulating walls in an allusion to the Biblical parting of the Red Sea. The museum’s virtual arm — the “Virtual Shtetl” web portal was launched in June — is aimed at giving it a head start online before its doors open.

Prior to World War II, Poland was home to some 3.5 million Jews, roughly 10 percent of it’s pre-war population with nearly a millennium of Jewish settlement within its borders. Some three million Polish Jews perished in the Holocaust which claimed six million of pre-WWII Europe’s estimated 11 million Jews. A third — 350,000 — of Warsaw’s pre-war population was Jewish. Today, out of an overwhelming Roman Catholic population of 38 million, various sources peg Poland’s Jewish population at just 3,500 to 15,000. Slated to cost a total 144 million dollars (102 million euros), the museum is being co-funded by the Polish government, the city of Warsaw and funds raised from private and institutional donors world-wide.