POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews to Open to the World


1,000 Years Later Back in Warsaw:

Tad Taube, Chairman

Shana Penn, Executive Director

Message from Taube Philanthropies’ Chairman and Executive Director

Though Europe has seen a recent rise in anti-Semitism, in Poland, we are seeing a revitalization of Jewish life and culture that is being experienced by – and truly, driven by – both Poland’s Jewish and Gentile communities. Though a fraction of what it once was at its peak centuries ago, Poland’s Jewish community is strong and vibrant, and the opening of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a game changer that will break down negative stereotypes about Poland. It is a monumental global achievement whose lessons we hope will have ripple effects throughout Eastern Europe as Poland’s neighbors seek to develop their own major modern cultural institutions and broader, more inclusive narratives of their multicultural histories.

This magnificent museum tells the vital – and often untold – story of Poland’s rich Jewish history. It embodies how Poland is celebrating and honoring Jewish life, reexamining its past, and bearing the fruits of a stable economy and democracy since 1989. Rising from the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, this museum is a proud statement in favor of tolerance and pluralism.

Not only all that, POLIN is groundbreaking in its artistic, innovative, interactive and incredibly modern depiction of 1,000 years of history, culture and heritage. We could not be more thrilled to be joined for the Grand Opening of such a landmark institution and the result of decades of fundraising, research and historical and cultural passion, by a diverse delegation of more than 100 supporters traveling across the Atlantic and from as far away as the United States, Canada and Australia.

We’ll end with a note for the future. We express our unconditional support for POLIN’s impressive and enterprising director, Dariusz Stola, and our eternal gratitude for Piotr Wislicki, chairman of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland and an amazing leader who steered the ship over some of the most important years, Marian Turski, vice-chairman of the Association and a voice of vision and moral authority from almost the very beginning, and Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who led the creation of the Core Exhibition, the heart and soul of the museum. We stand with them and with all of you as together, we embrace a bright present and future of Jewish life and community in Poland.

 

The Grand Opening: October 28, 2014

Two decades in the making, and exploring 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews will unveil to the world its eight-gallery Core Exhibition on Tuesday, October 28. Dignitaries from Europe and around the globe, including the President of Israel, will convene to celebrate this historic moment.  

The Museum, which stands on the historic site of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising facing the Monument of the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes, both memorializes and perpetuates Jewish life in Poland. Once home to the world’s largest Jewish community from which the majority of Jews living across the Diaspora descend, Poland is today enjoying a resurgence of Jewish life.

Information on the Grand Opening of the Core Exhibition of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, including a full schedule, can be found on the Museum’s website.

Grand Opening Postcards

The Core Exhibition

Developed by an international team of historians, museum experts and designers from Poland, the United States, Europe and Israel, and occupying one-third of the building, the Core Exhibition is the heart and soul of the Museum. It is the only exhibition that presents the thousand-year history of Polish Jews, their culture and heritage, which remain a source of inspiration for Poland and the world. This millennium-long journey spans eight galleries – from the earliest period of Jewish settlement until modern times and the gradual revival of Poland’s Jewish community after the fall of communism in 1989. It is a narrative exhibition – visitors are immersed in a story told by artifacts, paintings and interactive installations, replicas and models, video projections and testimonies.

Highlights include:

  • The captivating Forest gallery, an artistic installation which opens the Core Exhibition and shares the Polin legend, where the journey through the history of Polish Jews begins
  • The hand-painted Medieval gallery, which spans six centuries and features the Statute of Kalisz, the first official charter granted to Polish Jews from the state, now 750 years old, and a one-sided coin minted by a Jew and bearing Hebrew letters
  • An interactive scale model of Krakow and nearby Kazimierz (set in 1657, the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, presenting the rich culture of the local Jewish community; part of the “Paradisus Iudaeorum,” or Jewish Paradise, gallery)
  • The centerpiece of the Core Exhibition, a breathtaking replica of the 17th century Gwoździec Synagogue, a two-year project completed by an international group of almost 400 volunteers (featuring an ornately painted ceiling and timber-framed roof; part of the Jewish Town gallery)
  • A throne room showcasing the partition of the commonwealth by the Prussian, Russian and Austrian-Hungarian empires (Encounters with Modernity gallery)
  • A historical street, situated at the pre-World War II location of Zamenhofa Street, a Jewish neighborhood, where visitors can discover via multimedia the interwar period’s vibrant cultural and political life
  • The Holocaust gallery, located directly opposite the Monument of the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and the heroic Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; the gallery explores daily life in the ghetto from primary-source diaries and documents, and visitors traverse steps conveying the names of streets from which Jews were rounded up
  • The Post-war gallery examines the pressing question for Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust: whether to stay or go, and examines the legacy of Polish Jewish life today

Hot off the Press: The Museum's New Name, POLIN

Recently, the word “POLIN” was added to the Museum’s name in order to incorporate the legend of POLIN, which tells how Jews fleeing persecution in Western Europe came to Poland, where they heard birds chirping the Hebrew words “Po-lin! Po-lin!” In Hebrew "po-lin" means “rest here." And so, when the Jews heard the birds, they considered it a sign from heaven that they had reached a safe haven where they could develop their spirituality, culture and learning unfettered.

Architecture

The Finnish firm Lahdelma & Mahlamäki won the international competition for the architectural design of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in the summer of 2005, the first competition of its kind in Poland. Lahdelma & Mahlamäki’s winning design is a stunning 138,000 square-foot building with a unique glass and copper façade, undulating walls, and the largest glass window in Poland. The museum’s gleaming glass and copper exterior has already become a symbol of the new Poland—vibrant, modern, inspiring, and culturally significant. The building received the prestigious Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award while still under construction in 2008.

Prof. Mahlamäki, a professor in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Oulu, recalled his inspiration for the main hall: the parting of the Red Sea and escape of Jews from Egypt, as told in the Book of Exodus. From the center of the lobby visitors will see the Monument to Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto through the glass curtain above the main entrance. The monument is a symbol of remembrance and a key element of Prof. Mahlamäki’s spatial design of the building.

Rainer Mahlamäki, Chief Architect    
It is not a museum of the Holocaust. I want the building to express beauty; it should symbolize the future and hope.

Architectural Record
In the Warsaw Square that is laden with the history of the 1943 Ghetto Uprising, the Finnish firm of Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects has designed a muscular yet sleek enclosure for a surprising organic and undulating interior.

CNN Reports
It’s what architecture aspires to, seamlessly molding form and function into profound meaning.

Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Core Exhibition Program Director,
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews  
On the inside there’s a huge chasm down the middle, and for me that chasm says rupture, it says break, it says wound. But at the same time there is a series of bridges that stand for the mission of the museum, which is to create a bridge, a bridge across time, a bridge across continents, and a bridge across people.

Facts & Figures

Learn all the facts and figures about the incredible POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, from the size of the Core Exhibition and the weight of the close-to-scale replica of a 17th-century wooden synagogue roof to the figures behind the unique public partnership that made the Museum a reality to the unique educational opportunities inside and beyond the Museum’s walls!

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Media Attention

The New York Times, October 21, 2014
After several days of concerts, seminars, festivals and hoopla, the core exhibition of [POLIN] Museum of the History of Polish Jews — the most ambitious cultural institution to rise in Poland since the fall of Communism — will be unveiled on Tuesday. Poland’s top political leaders will be there, as will the president of Israel and other international dignitaries. The institution has been embraced across the political spectrum.

The Economist, October 18, 2014
The country is undergoing an unexpected Jewish revival. Among artists and intellectuals, Jewish identity is seen as hip. Warsaw boasts a Jewish school and half a dozen thriving synagogues, and towns from Lublin to Chmielnik are restoring Jewish architectural artefacts and teaching Israeli folk dance. If it seems increasingly clear that an exhibition on Polish Jewry should not overemphasize its disappearance, that is partly, and unexpectedly, because it seems to be coming back.

Dr. Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient
There were 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland. 1,000 years of activity, of extraordinary aspirations and endeavors and dreams and metamorphoses: 1,000 years, which must be studied and communicated and shared.

The New York Times
The museum, in its size, ambition, location, and importance, will instantly become a touchstone.

Prof. Moshe Rosman, Koschitzky Department of Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University  
The museum is a daring enterprise. It will be a historical museum that ranks
with the best in the world.

Forbes
A symbol of Jewish revival in the region.

Jewish Daily Forward
One of the most significant Jewish cultural projects in contemporary Europe…

The New York Times
[Poland is experiencing] one of the deepest ethical transformations that any European country has undergone since the end of World War II and the Holocaust.


People Who Made It Possible

The Private Partners: Piotr Wislicki and Marian Turski, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland

 

The Museum: Dr. Dariusz Stola, Museum Director; Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Core Exhibition Program Director; Dr. Antony Polonsky, Museum Chief Historian 

The Public Partners: President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski, Minister of Culture Malgorzata Omilanowska, Former Minister of Culture Bogdan Zdrojewski, Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Minister of Culture Museum Plenipotentiary Waldemar Dabrowski

Bay Area Supporters

Both the Core Exhibition and the Education Center will be named in honor of two San Francisco Bay Area foundations, the Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies.

Tad Taube, a prominent Bay Area businessman and philanthropist with a long-standing vision to help revive Jewish life in Poland, helped secure gifts from both the Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies and organized a total of close to $20 million in collaborative support for the Core Exhibition and the Education Center. Almost one-third of all funds for the Core Exhibition come from California. 

New Initiative: Global Education Outreach Program

Expanding the Resources and Impact of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute

The exhibits and programs of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews tell the epic story of a millennium of Jewish history in Greater Poland that continues to illuminate the world. Cutting-edge multimedia exhibits in the Museum’s eight Core Exhibition galleries and an array of public programs offer visitors unique insights and experiences about the many fascinating aspects of Jewish life, culture, and politics in the lands of Greater Poland — for centuries the heartland of the Jewish diaspora and the birthplace of much of modern Judaism. Many of the Museum’s scholarly endeavors exist in collaboration with the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, the world’s largest repository of Polish Jewish history.

The Global Education Outreach Program (GEOP), a new initiative of the Taube Philanthropies and partners, aims to transmit the Museum’s educational message and unique resources worldwide, and to provide access to the Institute’s archives. The GEOP offers scholarly exchanges and international group visits, as well as globally accessible online educational resources. The Global Education Outreach Program will:

  • Create global academic partnerships with major universities, offering seminars, research grants, summer school programs, and conferences in Polish Jewish studies.
  • Develop educational exchanges with top-tier collaborators, such as YIVO, Facing History and Ourselves, the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, Yad Vashem, the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco, March of the Living, and Birthright Israel.
  • Train Museum-based educators to engage with visitors from North America, Israel, Europe, Russia, Australia and elsewhere.
  • Launch online programs to extend the Museum’s educational impact beyond the walls of the classroom and the academy.
  • Publish educational materials including the Core Exhibition catalogue and scholarly publications.
  • Offer genealogy services for visitors to access on-site and online.
  • Provide a Jewish Heritage Tourism Program to serve visitors interested in exploring Poland and their family roots.
  • Showcase the contributions of Polish Jewry in Judeo-Christian Western culture.

Activities to Date, as of October 1, 2014

The Global Education Outreach Program is deepening the impact of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews by forging academic partnerships around the world that further the study of Polish Jews across all fields and disciplines. Such partnerships have been established between the museum and universities and research institutions in North America, Europe, Israel, Russia, and Australia. The GEOP is supported by San Francisco-based Taube Philanthropies, the Koret Foundation, and the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation.

In October, Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation will bring a delegation of scholars to the Core Exhibition’s October 28 Grand Opening, and in the months to follow, the Global Education Outreach Program will support exchanges that bring museum scholars to the United States to give lectures and present and discuss their research.

GEOP-funded activities 2013-2016

May 2013-2014
Linkage funded between POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and University of Southern California Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive of 52,000 searchable audiovisual testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides.

August 2014-2015
Dr. Antony Polonsky, an award-winning historian and the Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University, appointed as Chief Historian of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews; his affiliation with the museum is part of the GEOP.

October 2014
Core Exhibition catalogue.

October 2014
Taube-hosted delegation of GEOP Jewish studies professors to Grand Opening including from Stanford, USC, and Jewish Theological Seminary.

November 11-18, 2014 
Core Exhibition Scholar of Hasidism, Dr. Marcin Wodzinski, chair of Wroclaw University Jewish Studies Department, hosted at UC Davis and lectures about POLIN at UC Davis, Berkeley, Stanford, and the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley.

November 15-18, 2014
Annual Conference of Association of European Jewish Museums to be held at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

February 3-12, 2015 
POLIN educators visit and train at USC Shoah Foundation Visual Archive and with Stanford’s Jim Joseph Chair in Jewish Education and at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Jewish Family & Children’s Services Holocaust Center, among others.

Spring 2015
Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Core Exhibition director (and professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University), to tour and lecture in Bay Area, hosted by Stanford, supported by GEOP.

May 11-15, 2015
Dr. Antony Polonsky will chair an inaugural international conference of scholars at POLIN to study the Core Exhibition and evaluate what has been achieved in the past 30 years in the study of the history and culture of Polish Jews, as well as what is missing in the existing historiography. 50 speakers from around the world and 200 participants expected.

Summer 2015
First research fellowships for graduate students and faculty to work at the Museum and the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

2016
Polish translation and publication by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (based in Vilna, Poland) of Prof. Samuel Kassow’s book, The Distinctive Life of East European Jewry.

Active partnerships exist between POLIN and the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, YIVO, USC Shoah Foundation, Stanford, Facing History and Ourselves, the Jagiellonian University in Krakow (founded in 1364; the oldest university in Poland and the second oldest in Central Europe), Wroclaw University, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University, U.C. Davis, Graduate Theological Union, and George Washington University.

News: POLIN Museum Goes Virtual Via the
Google Cultural Institute

To open the doors of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews to people far beyond its physical building in Warsaw, the Museum will launch an online collection via the Google Cultural Institute to coincide with the October 28 Grand Opening of the Core Exhibition. Tune in October 28 to google.com/culturalinstitute to be a part of this exciting moment, no matter where in the world you live! The Google Cultural Institute helps preserve and promote culture via its online platform showcasing hundreds of museums, cultural institutions and archives around the world. The Google Cultural Institute partners with cultural entities to display and make accessible their content online.

 

News: Israeli President’s First State Visit to
POLIN Grand Opening

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has selected Poland as his first official state visit and will join us in Warsaw for the Grand Opening of the Core Exhibition of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Rivlin came to office in July. At the invitation of Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, the two will stand alongside dignitaries from around the world to welcome this magnificent museum and educational and cultural treasure, sure to be a force through which the world will learn about Poland’s rich history and the enduring achievements of Jewish life in Poland today.

Rivlin will be accompanied by an official delegation from Israel. While in Warsaw, he will address the Polish Parliament, the Sejm.

In a Jerusalem Post piece September 21 announcing his decision to come to Poland, the Post reported, “‘Everyone should be free to follow his own path, but not in an atmosphere of hatred, intolerance, incitement and violence,’ said Rivlin. Rivlin wants to find a formula for mutual understanding, tolerance and harmony.”

The New POLIN Foundation

The POLIN Foundation is the initiative of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland and the key distinguished benefactors of the capital campaign for POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The Association collected (or secured) more than 55 million dollars USD during the capital campaign. The international community of donors is now committed to the future development of the Museum’s educational and cultural programs and to its vital relevance in Poland and worldwide. Join us in taking the Museum to even greater heights.

The POLIN Foundation supports:

  • Core exhibition enrichment and extension
  • Temporary exhibitions
  • Research projects and scholarship, fellowships, conferences and seminars, publications, and exchange
  • Educational, artistic, and cultural programs
  • International partnerships and collaboration
  • Art collection endowment

Donors who join the Foundation are invited to serve on committees that will raise funds for a general endowment, heighten the Museum’s international profile, support the building of its art collection, and make possible innovative initiatives in all areas of its activity.