Celebrating a Decade of Strategic Philanthropy
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Taube Foundation’s Jewish Heritage Initiative in Poland (JHIP), a bold investment that is producing incalculable dividends. Its contribution to renewal of Polish Jewish life and culture, as well as civic life in the new democratic Poland, has grown immeasurably over a decade. In this inaugural edition of The Taube Report, we want to highlight what this major milestone represents both in and beyond Poland.
When we embarked on our first exploratory trip there together in 2004, a new democratic Poland was emerging after the fall of Communism in 1989, an event that made history just 25 years ago. We recognized that the rebirth of democracy had created the potential for a rebirth of Jewish life and culture, which would not have been possible without Poland’s return to freedom.
We believed that strategic philanthropy could have an unprecedented impact and set out to achieve three ambitious goals:
- To nurture the revival of Jewish life in Poland
- To further awareness of this resurgence among Jews and non-Jews
- To foster positive interest in Poland and Polish Jews among Jews worldwide
Over the past decade, we have implemented a multifaceted philanthropic strategy that has produced remarkable and tangible results. Key components include:
Strengthening Jewish Institutions. We prioritized funding Jewish organizations in Poland that had the potential to become sustainable, foundational elements of Jewish communal infrastructure. Among these were the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, the Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków, Jewish Community Centers in Kraków and Warsaw, the Galicia Jewish Museum, the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland—Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and the Jewish Genealogy & Family Heritage Center. In addition to extensive services for visitors to Warsaw, the Genealogy Center is creating a user-friendly interactive website, enabling research and real-time Internet consultation.
Establishing a Presence in Poland. When we opened a branch office in Warsaw in 2005, the San Francisco Bay Area-based Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture was the only American Jewish foundation with an on-the-ground presence in Poland. In addition to providing technical assistance to our grantees, the Warsaw office offers innovative education and tourism programs and extensive resources for international visitors.
Impacting Jewish Life and Polish Civic Life. By funding Jewish cultural initiatives that attract both Jews and non-Jews, we sought to foster recognition and appreciation for Polish Jewish arts, music, literature and a vibrant heritage.
The annual Kraków Jewish Culture Festival launched in 1988 has grown to be the world’s largest, with more than 25,000 participants, the majority of whom are not Jews. With eight days and nights of concerts, lectures, language workshops, dances, exhibits, and more, the Festival demonstrates the power of Jewish music and storytelling to bring people from around the world together in celebration of Jewish life.
Creating Firsthand Encounters and Relationships. According to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 85 percent of American Jews trace their roots to Poland, but most know little about their own heritage prior to the Holocaust. We began bringing American Jewish leadership groups to Poland regularly for firsthand encounters that challenged preconceptions and opened their eyes to the new reality of today’s Poland. We also invested in changing the experience of Jewish youth travel to Poland from focusing solely on the Holocaust to promoting discovery of personal heritage and a promising future for Jewish life. To make this opportunity available to groups and individuals, we created the Taube Jewish Heritage Tour Program. For those seeking to visit the sites of their family histories, the program works closely with the Genealogy Center to craft tailor-made trips for individuals, families and groups.
Our Capstone Project. When the new POLIN: Museum of the History of Polish Jews previewed on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 2013, it was the culmination of a 10-year journey by an unprecedented public-private partnership. The Museum is the Taube Foundation’s largest investment in Poland, and together with our partners at the Koret Foundation, we have been responsible for raising fully one-third of the funds donated from the U.S. to support its innovative 8-gallery core exhibition and education programs. The estimated 1 million visitors annually who will visit the Museum following its highly anticipated Grand Opening on October 28, 2014 will utilize cutting-edge technology to connect and interact with a precious heritage that was at risk of being completely forgotten. As a beacon of Jewish awakening in the new Poland, the Museum is the only major institution to present a millennium of Jewish life and culture that existed in Poland prior to the Holocaust.
Developing Collaborations. Shifting perception of Poland to a new landscape of hope, celebration and meaning required collaborations with partners who shared our vision. Among them are the Koret Foundation, David Berg Foundation, William K. Bowes, jr. Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, and MZ Foundation. We also created educational partnerships with Stanford University, the University of Southern California, YIVO, Facing History and Ourselves, Yad Vashem, and others. These strategic collaborations have enabled us to achieve greater impact than would have been possible alone.
Looking Forward. Today JHIP supports more than 70 programs and five educational initiatives in the arenas of scholarship, genealogy and publishing; community building; the arts; educational tourism; and heritage restoration. By linking living heritage to the Polish past, JHIP programs bring history forward for future generations in critical ways that inform identity and peoplehood. It deepens the Jewish world's understanding of peoplehood as viewed through the historical role of Polish Jews in the life and culture of Jewish people everywhere.
Our work continues and there are many exciting opportunities ahead, from global educational outreach initiatives for students of all ages, to development of a new generation of leaders among today’s Polish, American and Israeli youth. The substantial results of the past decade show what is possible. We are grateful to the many partners and individuals who join us in celebrating JHIP’s 10th anniversary.