The Museum of the History of Polish Jews

28d02e6c-6ff3-11e4_1110033hZofia Stemolowska at the Times Literary Supplement:

One of the main challenges in creating a museum of Jewish life in Poland is to judge how much to say about non-Jewish citizens of Poland and, given the Shoah, about anti-Semitism throughout Poland’s thousand-year history. As I have argued in the TLS before (June 15, 2012), Poland has made enormous progress in acknowledging the devastating presence of historic anti-Semitism on its land, but there is still a long way to go. Although the museum itself is a public-private partnership, it was Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute that raised $45 million in donations and had responsibility for the core exhibition. The Institute selected first-rate historians to inform it, including Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Antony Polonsky. Within the broadly well-judged parameters they set up, what you take away after a brief visit to such a dense exhibition is likely to reflect who you are and what you are looking for rather than what is on offer. If there is one nation that may leave the museum with a sense of grievance, it is perhaps the Ukrainians, whose most visible presence – though not the only one – is through the seventeenth-century Cossack uprising against Poland that was also a pogrom.

The museum itself is far more than its core exhibition. The scope of the project is breathtaking. The museum has an active online presence and a virtual shtetl portal that is an archive of documents of Jewish life. There is also a big and busy educational programme (currently sponsored by a multimillion dollar grant from Norway) that caters to teachers, pupils, families and even nurseries. A touring museum visits Polish towns, where it works with the councils to make the visit part of broader, well-advertised events. There are temporary exhibitions, films, performances, seminars (including one on another community destroyed by the war, the Roma), walks, bike rides and such initiatives as the wearing of a yellow daffodil badge in April to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

more here.