From an early age, I have always liked to explore other cultures. Interesting history, art, music and language are topics that I have always loved getting introduced to. A couple years ago, I had a chance to learn about a culture that completely captivated me. My first encounter with the Jewish culture was during the Jewish Culture Festival „Singer’s Warsaw” when I had the opportunity to see the theater play „Violinist on the roof”, I tried Jewish Chałka and listened some Jewish piece of music.
Luckily this year, as part of the Humanity in Action Warsaw Fellowship Program, alongside other participants, I had the opportunity to explore Jewish culture more thoroughly.
The Jews were always present in the Polish society. Before the war, Poland was a country where three million Jews lived, and it was one of the largest congregations of Jews in the world. Jews constituted about 10% of the general population. Unfortunately, mainly due to the execution of the Holocaust, the plan for the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War, the situation changed drastically. Today in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, there are only about 8,000 people of Jewish descent out of 1.7 million Warsaw residents. Alas, despite the 25-year presence of Jewish organizations in Poland, only 2,500 people are actively involved in the Jewish culture. While there are not many Jews living in Poland today, the discrimination, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia continue to rise in the Polish society.
Our team, in collaboration with Cukunft Jewish Association President Aleksandra Wilczura, has worked on bringing Jewish history, culture and values closer to the Polish audience. We have also worked on raising awareness of the presence of Jewish monuments, buildings, and cemeteries with the intention of preserving them for the next generations to appreciate.
In order to improve the situation, we had to come up with some outstanding ideas. To begin, as experienced activists, we had to thoroughly understand the operation of the Cukunft Jewish Association. We learned that Cukunft envisions a two-fold path for development. Its primary goal is to nurture the growth of a pluralistic and inclusive Jewish community in Poland. To complement this, Cukunft runs projects that aim at integrating and activating local secular Jewish individuals, as well as the non-Jewish community.
Design of the Sticker promoting Jewish Cultural Event prepared by Warsaw Fellows
Having in mind that Cukunft Jewish Association popularizes and brings the Jewish history, heritage, values and culture closer to both Jewish and non-Jewish Polish audience, our team has developed a series of promotional materials to raise interest in the Jewish cultural events in Poland. Our group came up with the design of posters and stickers to promote the Lower Silesia Festival of Jewish Culture. The festival will be devoted to the history of the Lower Silesia and the Jewish heritage of small Jewish communities of this region.
Additionally our team has been working on a design of a plaque which will be used to signal the presence of Jewish buildings, monuments, and cemeteries in Poland.
We hope that our work will have a positive impact and change the present state by involving more people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, so that they can deeply explore this fascinating culture. Thanks to this experience, we had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. We broadened our planning skills over one month of intensive work, which also helped us develop our creative way of thinking.
Collaboration within the Fellows’ project group and effective cooperation with the Cukunft Jewish Association allowed us to plan and carry out a project that was well received.
By Dominika Burakiewicz, on the project implemented with Ioannis Stylianidis and Bethanie Martin, participants of the 2018 Humanity in Action Warsaw Fellowship.