On February 26, 2015, over 600 people attended the opening of two Polish-themed exhibits at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, "Letters to Afar" and "Poland and Palestine: Two Lands and Two Skies."
Through "Letters to Afar," Budapest-based filmmaker and video-artist Péter Forgács, along with the NYC-based band The Klezmatics, revisit amateur movies made by Jewish immigrants from the US who visited their hometowns in Poland during the 1920–30s. Several decades later, Forgács rewrites these "visual postcards." The exhibit was a collaboration by POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York; it premiered at POLIN Museum in Summer 2013 and then showed at the Museum of the City of New York in Fall 2015.
"Poland and Palestine: Two Lands and Two Skies" consists of portraits made in the 1930s by photographer Ze'ev Aleksandrowicz (b. 1905, Krakow; d. 1992, Tel Aviv). After his death, his family discovered his life's work—over 15,000 negatives hidden away in a suitcase in the family attic. These images show their Jewish subjects in two distinct cultural contexts—in the streets of Kraków and in distant Palestine. In turn, the photographs become the starting point for telling stories about the relationship between these two worlds, full of contrasts and contradictions. These photos were given to the Galicia Jewish Museum to create an exhibit which premiered at the Galicia Jewish Museum in June 2012.
The Feb. 26 opening featured remarks by multi-media artist Péter Forgács of "Letters to Afar" and Galicia Jewish Museum Director Jakub Nowakowski, after a welcome by Contemporary Jewish Museum Director Lori Starr. The opening night also included live klezmer music, the premiere of short films created by Teen Art Connect interns and other international youth depicting their family stories as participants in the Our Roots project co-hosted by the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, and a subsequent conversation between Péter Forgács (Letters to Afar) and Rick Prelinger (Lost Landscapes of San Francisco) about the use of archival footage to make new films.
The two exhibits will be at the Contemporary Jewish Museum until May 24, 2015, and were supported by the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, among others.