Hillel exhibit features Poland’s Jewish past

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Brown RISD Hillel is excited to announce the inaugural exhibition of the updated and expanded collection of “Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland” from the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow. The official opening will be held on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m., with remarks by Adam Teller, Associate Professor of History and Judaic Studies at Brown University. 

In March 2015, Brown students traveled to Poland and the Galicia Jewish Museum with Brown RISD Hillel and Professor Teller.

The Galicia Jewish Museum website describes the former Galicia province as unique in Jewish history. “Nowhere else in such a literal and visible manner do traces of Jewish life stand side by side with those of the Holocaust and destruction, which was brought to this world by the Second World War. Nowhere else in Europe is the presence of the void created by the Holocaust as tangible as in the lands of modern Poland and Ukraine. Nowhere else is the evidence of destruction as lasting and ubiquitous as it is here – because nowhere else in Europe was Jewish life as developed as it was in historic Galicia. For centuries, this area was the center of Jewish life; and during the Second World War, it was the central point of the Holocaust, its epicenter.”

The website describes the recent trend of renewed interest in Jewish life in the region. “The political and social realities of the post-war period meant that what physically survived the Holocaust was condemned to years of oblivion. In the place of memory, a type of amnesia developed, a collective amnesia sanctioning mass devastation of the surviving fragments of this shattered world. But Jewish life, which for decades under communism smouldered under the surface, has begun to recover in the last few years and is proudly manifesting its presence here in Poland. For the first time in over 70 years, Poland can witness a growing polyphony of Jewish voices, an emphatic testimony to the variety of opportunities and trends – from Orthodox to Progressive, to completely secular. This polyphony, the tumult, noise and pluralism – and even the related tensions and problems – are a meaningful testimony to this world’s true vitality. This new, contemporary Jewish world is founded not only on remembering the Holocaust, but also on the awareness of the centuries of the Jewish presence in this country and its contributions to every aspect and sphere of life.”

“The Traces of Memory exhibition tells this story. Through the texts of Jonathan Webber, photographs of Chris Schwarz and Jason Francisco it pieces together a contemporary picture of a Jewish Poland in a manner which is informative, accessible, and thought-provoking.”

The exhibition has previously been shown at locations around the world, including the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. It has recently been updated and expanded and Brown RISD Hillel is thrilled to be the first stop on the tour.

It will be on display through the end of November at Brown RISD Hillel: 80 Brown St., Providence, RI 02906. For more information, please visit www.brownrisdhillel.org/hillel-gallery-project.html.

– Submitted by Brown RISD Hillel