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Poland’s Jewish renaissance brings to light ‘underpinnings’ of Judeo-Christian Western culture

By Jacob Kamaras/

June 28 will mark the start
of the 23rd annual Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland, whose closing
event is a concert that routinely draws 20,000-25,000 people and exemplifies
the re-emerging broad appeal of Jewish culture in a country that was home to 3
million Jews who died during Holocaust.

Click photo to download. Caption: San Francisco-based and Poland-born philanthropist Tad Taube, whose foundations committed $16 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Credit: Koret Foundation.

“Probably less than 10
percent of the people that are at that concert are Jewish,” San Francisco-based
and Poland-born philanthropist Tad Taube tells

But now, the Jewish Culture
Festival is not alone as a symbol of Poland’s Jewish renaissance. The Museum of the History
of Polish Jews—for which two foundations Taube heads, the Koret
Foundation and Taube Philanthropies, have made commitments of $16 million in
to visitors this April in Warsaw and according to Taube is beginning to deliver the message that “1,000 years of Jewish history serve
as the underpinnings of our own Judeo-Christian Western culture.” Much like the
Jewish Culture Festival, Taube expects the museum to appeal to audiences well
beyond the Jewish community. After it opened in April, the museum saw 15,000
visitors in its first three days and 45,000 in its first month.

“I think our studies right
now show that we’re going to have in excess of a million people a year visiting
the museum, and probably no more than 200,000 would be Jewish,” Taube says. “So
it’s going to be a major global attraction. And the [attendance] model that we
have is something that exists already, which is the Jewish Culture Festival in

Taube recalls a conversation
he once had a Polish consular official who noted, “In 1939, the population of
Poland was 35 million, and roughly 10 percent of that population was Jewish,
but the contribution to Polish culture was probably more like 75 percent. So,
when the Nazis murdered the Jews, it was as if Polish culture had been

Click photo to download. Caption: The Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Credit: Mamik via Wikimedia Commons.

The consulate official’s
point is why Taube believes Polish culture at large—not just Polish-Jewish
culture—is being revived through the Museum of the History of
Polish Jews.

Taube says the “unfortunate
aspect of modern thinking about the Holocaust” is that it “tends to obscure a
great culture that existed for a millennium in Poland, and which had an enormous
influence on Western culture.” While the Holocaust occurred in a relatively
short time frame, Jewish history and culture in Poland goes back 1,000 years.

“[The Jewish community]
brought to Poland a great deal of art, music, theater, literature, philosophy,
law, charity, family values, community values—all of the things that are
embraced today as part of Judeo-Christian Western culture, and it brought those
[elements] to Poland and to Jews as well as mostly non-Jews, because the Jewish
population in Poland was always the minority, although a very large minority,”
Taube says.

The most recent chapter of pre-Holocaust Polish Jewish history involved
the late Poland-born Pope John Paul II, whose hometown of Wadowice was more than 40-percent Jewish before the Nazis annexed the
town in 1939. John Paul …read more

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Posted by on June 18, 2013. Filed under Jewish News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.