Friday, August 14, 2009

Poland -- Article summarizing non-Jews preserving Jewish heritage

This year's award ceremony, held at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, honoring non-Jewish Poles who preserve Jewish heritage.
Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've written frequently on this blog about non-Jewish Poles preserving and conserving Jewish heritage (and of course, this was one of the themes touched on in my book Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe). One of my favorite events at the annual Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow is the ceremony honoring non-Jewish Poles for their efforts in this field.

An article in Transitions Online by Marjorie Backman summarizes some of the recent developments.

Poland lost nearly all its Jewish population in World War II, although previously Jews had comprised 10 percent of the population, even 50 percent of some towns. (Several historians estimate that half of the Jews slain in the Holocaust came from Poland.) During the Nazi years and the communist period, public discussion about Jewish culture was impossible, according to Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich. Only after 1989 came “honest appraisal of what the Jewish presence meant in Poland.” For 50 years, Jewish-Polish relations were “in the freezer.”

But now, he says, “There are more non-Jewish Poles working on saving Jewish cemeteries, creating more Jewish festivals, adding courses in the high school than in any other country in Europe.”

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