Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smart phone apps for Jewish sites in Warsaw and Berlin

 This post also appears on my En Route blog for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal

 By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I’ve been on the road for the past 10 days, and I have a backlog of material to catch up on with postings…. both items I have seen online and on-site visits I’ve made myself.

One new development is the release of smart phone apps that guide you around several Jewish sites in Berlin and Warsaw. Smart phone and tablet apps are clearly the self-tour guides of the future that are becoming the present….

The new ones I’ve noticed recently include an app that guides you around the Warsaw of Holocaust hero Janusz Korczak. Called “My Warsaw,” it is a project of the forthcoming Museum of the History of Polish Jews—it’s available for free on the iTunes store, but I’m not sure about other platforms. This is what Virtual Shtetl says:
The application spans two tourist routes. The first one guides you through places related to Janusz Korczak’s early and late childhood while the other shows Korczak’s life story during World War II. Both routes comprise almost fifty described places. The “My Warsaw-Warszawa jest moja” project shows now nonexistent Warsaw through pictures, audio recordings, a quiz, quotations and the augmented reality system. It sets an example of a novel approach of learning by having fun by means of state-of-the-art technologies.
You can download this bilingual Polish-English application on GooglePlay and AppStore for free.
The application is designed to be a modern tool for learning and teaching history. The only thing you have to do is take your Smartphone with you and take a walk with your family around Warsaw or organize a memorable outdoor history lesson. Tourists may use it as a city guide while Warsaw residents may discover their home town anew.
Another new app guides users around three historic Jewish cemeteries in Berlin .

Berlin has several Jewish cemeteries, including the huge Weissensee cemetery.

This is what Reuters says about the Berlin cemetery app—but I’m not sure where to get the app, or what platforms it serves. I did not find it on iTunes:
The smartphone programme leads visitors to the graves of Jewish figures such as philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, hotelier Berthold Kempinski, publishers Rudolf Mosse and Samuel Fischermen and also of those who committed suicide to escape deportation to Nazi death camps.
“There is an Internet code at the entrance of each cemetery which can be scanned by a smartphone and directly connects to the cemeteries’ website,” the cemeteries’ inspector Hilel Goldmann said.
The Internet programme is steered by a GPS navigation device and enables the visitors to plan their own ‘tour’ choosing among about 160 of the 150,000 graves in the three Berlin cemeteries, Goldmann said.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

NYTimes online on reassessing and reaffirming Jewish Culture in Poland

This post also appears on my En Route blog for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal

Poster for a play called "Zyd, "or "Jew" by Artur Palyga, which deals with anti-Semitism. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The development of Jewish - and Jewish-themed—cultural expression and “production” in Poland and other countries is a theme that I have written about for many years, most notably in my book Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe (BTW—Virtually Jewish is now available as a Kindle e-book.)

I have focused in large part on the relationships between non-Jewish artists, musicians and others with Jewish culture and the way that they have used Jewish themes in their work.

But, in recent years, Jewish artists have also increasingly been exploring Jewish themes and topics, some of them as a way to explore their own identity.

In an article for the New York Times online the journalist Ginanne Brownell reports on this trend, writing about how Jewish artists are reasserting and redefining Jewish culture in Poland. Brownell interviewed me when I was in Poland last month and quotes me in the article—and she also quotes quite a few of my friends!

[A] growing number of Jewish Poles in the artistic sphere ... are exploring the dichotomy of being both Polish and Jewish in 21st-century Poland.

Writers, playwrights, filmmakers and visual artists are tackling everything from anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to coming to terms with their families’ Communist pasts and issues of identity.

“You cannot imagine Polish culture without Jewish culture,” said Pawel Passini, a Lublin-based director and playwright who last year won two awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for his staging of “Turandot.” “I think most people are conscious of that, the problem is how to say it and let people deal with it.”

She goes on:

From the late 1980s — thanks to things like the Krakow Jewish Festival that will take place from June 29 until July 8 this year — Jewish culture, or what is perceived as Jewish culture, has become more popular in Poland. Ms. Gruber described this in her 2002 book “Virtually Jewish” as “familiar exotica,” where there is pseudonostalgia for Jewish culture like the theatrical shtetl world of “Fiddler on the Roof” or wailing, clarinet-infused Klezmer music.

Contemporary Jewish artists are broadening the definition of Jewish culture in Poland. Mr. Passini is a case in point, having become one of the most acclaimed young stage directors in the country. He admits that many of his works — including plays like “Nothing Human” about a young girl trying to find her roots and “Tehillim,” which used choreography based on Hebrew letters — have a focus on spirituality.

Read the full story HERE