Friday, June 12, 2009

Poland -- Upcoming commemorative and cultural events

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

In Poland, there may be only 15,000 (or so) Jews -- but the summer months are filled with Jewish culture and heritage events. This year is no exception.

From big Jewish culture festivals, to individual commemorative events marking sites of Jewish heritage, much is going on. Some are sponsored by local civic organizations, some by committed local activists, some by the Israel embassy, some by local Jewish communities and Jewish organizations -- and some by a combination of organizers and funders who work together on the projects.

This month will see at least two commemorative events.

This Sunday, June 14, a ceremony will take place in the little town of Brzostek to memorialize the destroyed Jewish community there. It will formally rededicate the Jewish cemetery, which has been newly fenced put in order, and also unveil a Hebrew-language monument. In the course of restoring the cemetery, some 30 old tombstones, which have come to light in recent years, were re-erected. In addition, a plaque will be dedicated in the town center -- in Polish and English -- in memory of the former Jewish residents of the town. The project is being carried out in full co-operation with both the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, and the Brzostek town council.

Rabbis and local dignitaries will attend the ceremony, as will pupils from local schools.

"The town is regarding it as a major civic event and organizing various exhibitions on Brzostek's Jewish history," writes Connie Webber, the head of the Littman Library Jewish publishing house, said in an email. "Everyone with a Brzostek connection is invited to participate. Buses will be arranged to and from Krakow on the Sunday, and arrangements have been made for kosher food to be available both on the Sunday and for the preceding Shabbat in Krakow."

Connie and her husband, the scholar Jonathan Webber -- who family stems from Brzostek -- have been instrumental in organizing the commemoration.

Just one week later, on June 22, a plaque commemorating the former Scheinbach Synagogue building (today the town library) will be unveiled in Przemysl, in the far southeast of Poland on the border with Ukraine. Participating will be guests from Poland and abroad. The plaque is a joint initiative of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and Michael Freund of Raanana in Israel.

Located at ul. Slowackiego 15, the synagogue was built for the Reform community in 1886-1890 and was designed by Marceli Pilecki. (Another synagogue in the town, built in 1909, stands abandoned and falling ever more into ruin on Plac Unii Brzeskiej, in the Zasanie district across the river. There is a large Jewish cemetery next to the main municipal cemetery, with tombs from the 19th and 20th centuries.)
(Synagogue photo

As for Jewish culture festivals -- everyone knows about the big Krakow Jewish Culture Festival -- but a a number of others are in the works in Poland. They include:

Gdansk -- 10th Baltic Days of Jewish Culture. June 14-15

Bialystok -- 2nd Zachor Festival of Jewish Culture. June 15-16

Chmielnik -- VII Meeting with Jewish Culture, June 19-21

Krakow -- Festival of Jewish Culture, June 27-July 5. The Other Europeans concert will be July 3.

Warsaw -- Singer's Warsaw Festival of Jewish Culture, Aug. 29-Sept. 6. A big festival, increasingly similar in scope to that in Krakow.

Lodz -- Festival of the Dialogue of Four Cultures. Usually in September

For an ever-growing list of Jewish festivals in all parts of Europe, check the link in the side bar of this blog!

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