Meet Our Volunteers - Agnieszka & Kuba!

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Each month, we share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar. The calendar showcases the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish, who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow. 

This month, we introduce you to our December Volunteers, Agnieszka & Kuba! They both started out as volunteers and now are full-time staff members of the JCC.

 
1) Where are you from?

Kuba: I come from a small town in the northern part of Poland.

Agnieszka: I'm originally from Krakow - as we say, a true Krakowianka. I was raised in a non-Jewish family in the Jewish district of Krakow, Kazimierz, a place filled with pre-war synagogues and traces of Jewish life and heritage. Now Kazimierz is a modern renovated district where history meets contemporary living, a trendy neighbourhood, but when I was growing up it was different, very rundown. It’s been amazing to watch these streets change.

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2) Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

Kuba: My parents always wanted me to learn more about the world and other cultures. They taught me to treat others with honor and respect. That’s probably one of the reasons why I decided to major in Middle-Eastern studies at the Jagiellonian University. In 2014, I spent the summer in Israel interning at the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv. Upon return, I decided to become a volunteer at the JCC because I wanted to broaden my knowledge of Jewish history and culture.

Agnieszka: Growing up in Kazimierz, I became interested in Jewish history and culture. When I found out that for a thousand years Jews were a major part of Polish history, when I learned more about the Holocaust, I felt that something was missing from my history, my environment, my neighbourhood. I felt a void, I felt I would never be able to experience Jewish life here. But then I found out about the JCC, and that gave me the opportunity to meet and join the local Jewish community and help rebuild Jewish life, learn about Shabbat not only from books but by experiencing it with JCC members. And then I was lucky enough to get a job at the JCC! 

3) What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

Kuba: Volunteering at the JCC was an excellent way to meet many interesting people, to exchange ideas and opinions with them, and hear their views on a variety of subjects.

Agnieszka: My friend Olga found out about her Jewish roots when she was 12 years old. As a student, she joined the JCC, and for the first time ever she learned how to properly celebrate Pesach in accordance with Jewish tradition. Olga cleaned her house from chametz, and I was the one to whom she sold it! She’s never thought she'll be able to lead a Jewish life, and I’ve never thought I will be able to experience Jewish life in my hometown! 

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4) What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?

Kuba: Every day spent at the JCC was a unique and interesting experience that taught me something new. That, and the community itself, are the best things about this Centre.

Agnieszka: Being part of JCC Krakow’s Ride For The Living has been one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life. In 2017, during the 4th edition of the Ride, over 160 participants from all around the world biked 55 miles from Auschwitz-Birkenau to JCC Krakow to celebrate the revival of Jewish life in Poland. For the third year in a row, we were joined by Marcel Zielinski, a 83-year-old Holocaust Survivor who was just 10 years old at the time of Auschwitz liberation and had to walk back to Krakow searching for his family. He came back to Poland for Ride For The Living to retrace that route on a bike, this year -  with his son and two granddaughters. I am still overwhelmed by all the love and support I have received during Ride For The Living, and I couldn't have been happier or felt more fulfilled. I am grateful to all Riders, my amazing JCC Krakow team, and everyone who has ever supported the Ride. I hope to see you all in 2018! 

Meet Our Volunteer - Ania!

Each month, we share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar. The calendar showcases the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish, who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow. 

This month, we introduce you to our November Volunteer, Ania! Learn more about what inspired Ania to get involved with the JCC!

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Where are you from?
I’m from Krakow.


Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?
I decided to join the volunteer program at the JCC because I wanted to learn more about Judaism and to get to know the Jewish community of Krakow better.

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What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?
I have a lot of best JCC memories, it is impossible to pick just one. Every JCC memory is among my best. Since I became a volunteer at the JCC, I have met so many wonderful people here, people who have taught me a lot. We’re all one big family here, and it is this unique atmosphere that made me continue with the program for another year. 

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What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?
This special atmosphere at the JCC - I like it the best. Everyone is so friendly, and helpful, and nice. I like to work at the reception, too, because it gives me the opportunity to talk to people from all over the world.
 

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JCC Krakow celebrates opening of Early Childhood Center "Frajda"

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JCC Krakow celebrated the opening of its Early Childhood Center, Frajda, today. A ribbon cutting
ceremony officially marked the first time in over half a century that a pluralistic Jewish nursery school has opened its doors in Krakow. Frajda was made possible through the generous lead grant of Eric and Erica Schwartz of New York City, who spoke at the ceremony about the revival of Jewish life. “The preschool years are the ideal time for learning about Jewish culture, values, and traditions. We are so pleased to make it possible for Krakow’s Jewish families to send their children to a school that focuses on providing this foundation for the youngest members of the community,” Erica Schwartz said.

JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, President of the Jewish Religious Congregation of Krakow Tadeusz Jakubowicz, and Frajda parent Ewa Kodymowska also offered remarks at the ceremony. “I am thrilled to see Krakow’s Jewish children learning together in a Jewish school,” Schudrich said. “Today is a special day in our community’s history. I salute the Schwartzes, Friends of JCC Krakow, and the JCC for bringing this amazing project to fruition.”

Consul General of the United States in Krakow Walter Braunohler attended the ceremony with his mother and two daughters. “I’m incredibly proud of the friendship that we have with the JCC,” he said. “With the opening of Frajda, we are investing in young people for the sake of Polish Jewish heritage.”

Polish Undersecretary of State Wojciech Kolarski, President of the World Jewish Congress Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, and Elizabeth Szancer, donor of Frajda’s Szancer Family Reading Corner, provided remarks to be read in their absence.

The Early Childhood Center’s name, Frajda, means “joy” in both Yiddish and Polish. Created in
consultation with leading Jewish early childhood education experts from Poland, the United States, and Israel, Frajda’s state-of-the art facility can serve up to 22 students. Three dedicated teachers will deliver instruction this year, and the JCC will provide transportation to students from across the city.

The outdoor Taube Family Playground and the Shana Penn Garden to be opened in Spring 2018 will be sponsored by Taube Philanthropies and will augment Frajda’s activities. Frajda’s annual security needs will be underwritten by The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.

Frajda’s opening would not have been possible without the contributions of Jeff and Janet Beck, Alan and Cindy Golman, Susan Lerner and Michael Roffer, Sam and Gina Rosenberg, Judy Wolf-Nevid, Michelle Ores, Elizabeth Szancer, Agi Legutko, and the entire Friends of JCC Krakow board.

The JCC is immeasurably grateful to Eric and Erica Schwartz, as well as to these friends and supporters from around the world whose love and dedication enabled the establishment of Frajda. Their enthusiastic support will help future generations of Jewish Poles to connect with Jewish traditions, holidays, history, and values from the day they are born and to celebrate their Polish Jewish identities.

JCC Krakow was opened in April 2008 by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales. It has quickly
established itself as the focal point of Jewish life for Krakow’s residents, as well as for thousands of visitors from around Poland and the world every month. Today, the JCC has over 650 active Jewish members, including 70 Holocaust survivors.

Meet Our Volunteer - Dominika!

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow.

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Where are you from?

I currently live and study in Krakow, but I was born in Tarnów. 

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

I became interested in Jewish culture when I was still an elementary school student. This was due in no small part to the influence of my aunt Ania, who was a Jewish studies major at the Jagiellonian University. Every time she came back to Tarnów, her hometown, she would share with us what she had learned. She was also teaching me basic Yiddish. I was fascinated with the object of her studies, with Jewish history, with the language. My senior year of high school I started attending a preparation course in drawing because I wanted to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts. The course was taught in Krakow on Fridays and Saturdays. Therefore, on weekends I would stay at my aunt Ania’s place in Krakow. One time, after I had completed my studies for the day, I went to the JCC to see my aunt and join her for Shabbat dinner. That was the day when my fascination with Jewish culture began in earnest. I had been to Shabbat dinners before, but nevertheless, I was amazed and surprised by the atmosphere at that Shabbat dinner at the JCC. So I kept coming back. One night there weren’t enough volunteers to help out, so my aunt asked me if I would lend a hand. Obviously, I agreed right away, I was happy to be able to contribute in any way I could. Then, I started to help more often and I felt my connection with the JCC grow stronger. At some point I realized that this place had become part of my life, and therefore, I decided to be join the volunteer program.  

What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

I could probably write a book about my memories from all of the years I spent at the JCC. I have met so many wonderful people there, people who became my friends and family. Some of my favorite moments were my first Shabbat dinner with the community, my first time participating in Ride For The Living, and the first group of tourists I brought to the JCC courtyard on a walking tour. The best thing about being a member of the JCC family is that I know there are many more wonderful memories to be made! 

Dominika helping at the Jewish Culture Festival Shabbat DInner

Dominika helping at the Jewish Culture Festival Shabbat DInner

What is one of your favorite things at the JCC?

My favorite thing at the JCC? The people I’ve met here. Thanks to them, I want to spend as much time here as I can every day, learning new things about Jewish history and culture. 

Dominika decorating our sukkah

Dominika decorating our sukkah

Meet Our Volunteer - Anna Maria!

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow.

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Where are you from?

I come from a small town called Myszków, located close to Krakow. I moved to Krakow almost 9 years ago, and since then this beautiful city has become my home. 

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

There were so many reasons why I decided to come to the JCC. I wanted to try something new, I wanted to pursue my interest in Jewish culture and history, and I wanted to get more experience and gain new skills that would help me with finding a job after graduating from university. Prior to becoming a volunteer, I had visited the JCC a couple of times and found the atmosphere there to be simply amazing. People were so friendly, they were smiling all the time, and happily chatting with each other. “This is a perfect place for me,” I thought... and I wasn't wrong!

What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

I could probably write a book about my memories from all of the years I spent at the JCC. I have met so many wonderful people there, people who became my friends and family. Some of my favorite moments were my first Shabbat dinner with the community, my first time participating in Ride For The Living, and the first group of tourists I brought to the JCC courtyard on a walking tour. The best thing about being a member of the JCC family is that I know there are many more wonderful memories to be made! 

What is one of your favorite things at the JCC?

The best thing about our JCC is its great atmosphere. Everyone feels good and at home here! It doesn't matter if you come and talk to our seniors in the Senior Club, spend your time in the office, or just hanging out on the orange couch by the reception desk chatting with whoever comes in, you always feel like you’re a part of the community. The atmosphere at JCC Krakow is one of freedom, comfort, and hope!

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Meet Our Volunteer - Agnieszka!

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow.

Where are you from?

I’m actually originally from Krakow.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

I first decided to join the volunteer program at JCC Krakow to expand my knowledge of Judaism and Jewish traditions. But then I discovered that finding out more about the Jewish presence in the city was a great way to learn more about the history of Krakow and, surprisingly, about Polish culture as well. 

What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

This is, hands down, the trip to Israel with the members of the JCC Senior Club. It was a very emotional and moving experience. I look fondly on the time spent on that trip with our seniors, many of them Holocaust survivors, and I will always remember the stories they shared with us and the fun we had discovering Israel together. 

What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?

I enjoy helping out at the Senior Club. Talking to our seniors is an opportunity to see history come alive. We have so much to learn from them. I wouldn’t be amiss if I said that in some way they are an inspiration for us, the young generation.

Meet Our Volunteers - Ewa & Julia!

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow.

EWA

Where are you from?

I was born and grew up in Krakow.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

For as long as I remember, I have been interested in Jewish culture. One day, I realized it was my calling to contribute to the revival of Jewish life in Krakow, and what better place was there to start than the JCC? I applied for the volunteer program, I got accepted, and I stayed. Being part of the Jewish revival makes me happy and inspires me every day. Thanks to my volunteer service at the JCC, I have learned many interesting things that I would have never learned anywhere else.

What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

It is tough for me to choose only one, but what I really enjoy is helping out at Shabbat dinners and during Jewish holidays as well as talking to the members of the JCC Senior club - they have a lot of surprising and inspirational stories to share.

What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?

What I love the most about the JCC is the atmosphere, which is incredible! Because of the atmosphere, I usually linger in the JCC building long after my shift is done, just hanging out and talking to people. I have a feeling that the place itself attracts amazing people, who build the community and create a new, more beautiful Krakow. I owe a lot to the JCC and I will never forget the time I have spent here.

JULIA

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Krakow.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

Prior to making the decision to join the JCC volunteer program and become part of this incredible community, I had participated in many workshops and activities organized by the JCC and taken part in the Jewish Culture Festival. I was encouraged to join the volunteer program at the JCC by my sister Ewa who had already been a volunteer there for quite some time. I thought it was a great - and productive! - way to spend my summer holidays. I started by helping during the Jewish Culture Festival and as a result, I stayed on at the JCC for the fall semester. I guess, once you join the JCC’s team of volunteers, you’re hooked on the experience and you don’t ever want to leave.
 

What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

My best JCC memory is the so-called Silent Disco, which took place during the Festival in 2016 in the JCC’s backyard. We all danced, laughed and partied with earplugs in our ears. It was an amazing experience and an unforgettable party.
 

What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?

The thing I like the most about the JCC is that it is a place that is open to everyone. Literally, everyone. I always feel good and comfortable when I am here, because this place draws in so many interesting and diverse people. Thanks to them, the JCC is full of life. Everyday you can meet here someone with an incredible story, therefore every time I am here I learn something new and expand my horizons. Because of the atmosphere at the JCC, I have many nice memories and I always want to come back here.

Emanuel Elbinger "Mundek" - 1931 - 2017

Many of you who have joined us over the years at JCC Krakow for a Shabbat dinner had the good fortune to hear a sweet older gentleman sing a few songs in Yiddish at the end of the meal.

Emanuel Elbinger, "Mundek," Holocaust survivor, the last Krakowian born native speaker of Yiddish still living in Krakow, passed away peacefully this past Friday at the age of 86.

You can read more about his life in the below article.

Mundek was born in Krakow in 1931 and lived in Nowe Brzesko (35km outside of Krakow) with his family until September 1942 when his family was divided and hidden by Polish families. Before the war, his parents owned a textile factory and hid some of their textiles throughout Krakow in case they needed it for trade. His youngest sister was taken out of hiding and sent to a deportation center and his grandmother was killed among many other elders before the deportation.

Mundek’s mother and younger sister were initially hidden by a priest, but later on joined Mundek and his father in the attic of a farmer’s house. His family soon realized they were no longer safe there and left to seek shelter at another house. Mundek and his mother would dress up in peasant women clothing to retrieve the textiles that were hidden in exchange for their safety at the house. On one of his trips, Mundek’s former classmates recognized him and Mundek ran towards the countryside in fear someone would hear them yell “Jew”. One evening his mother went out to get food for the family and never returned.

After the liberation, Mundek, his father, and younger sister went back to Nowe Brzesko where his father placed them at a Jewish orphanage in hopes they would get the help they needed. Shortly after, his father passed away from Tuberculosis. Mundek graduated with an Engineering degree in 1954 and worked in the field until retirement. 

Mundek was an active JCC Krakow member ever since the Center opened in 2008 and has joined us for our weekly Friday night community Shabba dinners, where he often shared a couple of his favourite Yiddish songs with everyone.

May his memory be a blessing and may we all continue to sing on Shabbat with the energy and love that he did. 

2017 Satellite Ride For The Living

Can't come to Poland to take part in our 55-mile bike ride from Auschwitz to JCC Krakow? Join a satellite Ride For The Living event in your city!

Thanks to our partnership with the JCC Association of North America, JCCs across the U.S. are organizing dedicated spin classes to raise awareness about Ride For The Living.

This can be your opportunity to support our cause and share in this unique experience. Check out the full list of events here and sign up today!

 

  • Oshman Family JCC (Palo Alto, CA)

June 22 | 6:00 AM, 9:30 AM, 5:20 PM, 6:30 PM
June 23 | 6:00 AM, 8:30 AM, 9:30 AM
June 24 | 8:20 AM, 9:30 AM, 10:40 AM
June 25 | 8:00 AM, 9:05 AM

For more information, click here. 

 

  • Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center (Miami, FL)

June 21 | 6:30 - 8:00 PM

 

  • The Osher Marin JCC (San Rafael, CA)

June 23 | 10:00 - 10:45 AM

For more information, click here.

 

  • Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

June 25 | 11:00 AM

For more information, click here

 

  • Tucson JCC (Tucson, AZ)

June 23 | 8:00 - 10:00 AM

For more information, click here

 

  • Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (Dallas, TX)

June 23 | 9:00 - 10:00 AM

For more information, click here

 

  • Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit (Detroit, MI)

June 25 | 8:30 AM

For more information, click here

 

  • Alpert Jewish Community Center (Long Beach, CA)

June 29 | 9:00 - 11:00 AM 

For more information, click here

 

  • Rockland JCC (West Nyack, NY)

June 25 | 11:15 AM - 1:00 PM 

For more information, click here

 

  • Addison-Penzak JCC of Silicon Valley (Los Gatos, CA)

June 23 & 24

For more information, click here

Meet Our Volunteers: Justyna, Magda & Sylwia!

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow. 
 
This month we introduce to you our June Volunteers, Justyna, Magda & Sylwia! They all participated in the 2016 Ride For The Living and this year, Magda & Sylwia will take on the role as one of our marshals. They will know the route inside and out and our Riders can rely on them for help and guidance! 

JUSTYNA

Where are you from?

I currently live in Krakow, but originally I am from a small town in Silesia.


Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

I wanted to gain an inside perspective on Jewish culture and practices. Being a volunteer at the JCC gives you all kinds of opportunities to get involved in Jewish life.


What is your best JCC experience?

If I had to choose just one, it would be last year’s Ride For The Living. Specifically, that final moment when we rode through the gates of the JCC at the end of our journey, cheered on and greeted by our community. That was very emotional. 


What is one of your favorite things at the JCC?

The best thing about JCC Krakow is that it has become my second family, my home away from home. Being here always puts a smile on my face.

MAGDA

Where are you from?

I'm from Krakow, born and raised.


Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

I enjoy helping people, that’s why I volunteer at several organizations. Volunteering is an important part of my life. It is a perfect opportunity to meet new people and learn about different aspects of life. Moreover, through volunteering I am able to get to know myself better, too.


What is your best JCC experience?

At the JCC, I make new friends and meet interesting people; I familiarize myself with Jewish culture. Every experience at the JCC is wonderful, memorable and unique!


What is one of your favorite things at the JCC?

The visitors! I like it when guests of our city find the time to visit the JCC, discover Krakow through the prism of the city’s Jewish presence, and learn our story.


SYLWIA

Where are you from?

I am from Krakow.


Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

When I was in high school, I went to Jerusalem on a student exchange program, which the JCC  helped organize. It was then when I learned about the JCC volunteer program and decided to join. JCC Krakow seemed like a very open, friendly, vibrant place with many opportunities, and I really wanted to be a part of it.


What is your best JCC experience?

My best JCC memory was meeting Marcel Zielinski, a Holocaust survivor. He currently lives in Canada but has joined us for Ride For The Living twice already. It was an unforgettable experience to ride together with him in 2016 RFTL, and I felt honored that he wanted to share his story with me.


What is one of your favorite things at the JCC?
I have two favorite things at the JCC. First, Shabbat dinners when the whole community can gather together after a busy week, rest, celebrate, and rejoice. Second, studying the Torah with the Rabbi every Saturday. I am happy to see that my colleagues - young Jews - have an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the Torah as well as of their culture and religion.

Magda, Justyna & Sylwia after finishing the 2016 Ride For The Living

Magda, Justyna & Sylwia after finishing the 2016 Ride For The Living

JCC Krakow Welcomes Rabbi George Schlesinger

We, at JCC Krakow, would like to extend a warm welcome to Rabbi George Schlesinger, who is a Taube Visiting Fellow serving the Krakow community for the month of May, hosted by the Taube Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland Foundation and sponsored by the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture. Rabbi Schlesinger’s visit to Krakow started with a Shabbat dinner at the JCC last week, where he met with the local Jewish community. We are happy and honored to host Rabbi Schlesinger and we believe that the time he’ll spend in Krakow will be of great value and benefit to our community.

Previously, Rabbi Schlesinger visited Poland with the North California Board of Rabbis Mission with Taube Jewish Heritage Tours. This time, Rabbi Schlesinger will be working closely with the JCC, Galicia Jewish Museum, Jewish Culture Festival and the Institute of Jewish Studies at Jagiellonian University for a month. Rabbi Schlesinger’s presence will have a profound impact on locals by educating them about Judaism and its culture and traditions. He will be delivering lectures, hosting meetings, leading services, and helping with Jewish knowledge and advice. 

Rabbi Schlesinger was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He has served as a Conservative congregational rabbi for the last 40 years. Throughout his career, he has created numerous programs and classes, providing for the educational, spiritual, and ritual needs of the members of his congregation. Now retired, Rabbi Schlesinger continues to serve the Jewish community by teaching students, officiating at weddings and funerals, and volunteering at his synagogue as a Torah and Megillah reader, Ba’al Tefillah, and lecturer.

Rabbi Schlesinger also loves music and plays piano, harp, and guitar. He is also an avid long-distance cyclist: he has bicycled across the United States both west to east and south to north! 

We wish Rabbi Schlesinger a pleasant and productive time in Krakow, and we are excited to support him here in all his endeavors.

About the Taube Visiting Fellows Program

In October 2016, a delegation from the North California Board of Rabbis came on a mission to Poland with Taube Jewish Heritage Tours. Following that trip, in response to the rabbis’ mounting interest in returning to Poland, the Taube Visiting Fellows program was launched with the Taube Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland. The Taube Visiting Fellows program brings San Francisco Bay Area rabbis, educators, and community organizers to different cities in Poland (1-3 per year) for a 4-week residency.  During their residency, each fellow works with the local Jewish communities seeking to strengthen their infrastructures and effectiveness, to expand their knowledge of Jewish traditions, and to encourage their engagement in Jewish life. The Fellowship program is supported by the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, the Jewish Community Federation of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Northern California Board of Rabbis.  
 

Meet Our Volunteer - Julia

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow.

Where are you from?

I grew up in the Silesia region but I currently live and study in Krakow.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

My adventure with the JCC started two years ago. The JCC was looking for volunteers to help with 7@nite - Night of the Synagogues. I found out about the event on Facebook and decided to participate. I thought I’d just stay only for that one event, but the atmosphere, the people and the opportunity to learn about Jewish culture made me change my mind. So I stayed longer and continued to support other initiatives at the JCC.

What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?

My best JCC memory is my first Shabbat dinner. We had it outside, in the JCC courtyard; there were candles, multi-coloured lamps, we sang songs. But of course it’s not my only good memory at the JCC!

What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?

The JCC provides a lot of opportunities, both to members and volunteers. There is something for everyone here, I think.

Meet Our Volunteer - Ania

Each month we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar which features the young adults, most of whom are not Jewish who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Krakow and have been living here my whole life.


Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

It started four years ago. I was looking for some information about synagogues and other Jewish heritage sites in the city and I came across an announcement that the JCC was looking for volunteers who wanted to help out during 7@Nite - the Night of the Synagogues festival. I decided to apply, and that decision changed my life. This adventure still continues...


What is your best JCC experience?

I've been a volunteer here for four years, so it's not easy to choose just one. But I think that the best thing is having the opportunity to to speak to many people from all over the world. I spend many hours at reception, and it has helped me to become less shy, and now I'm not as shy around people as I used to be. But the most precious thing is is that I can listen to the stories of people who come to the JCC and why it is important to them. I am also grateful to have become good friends with the other volunteers.


What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?

It's really hard to choose. There are many factors. First of all, the people - they are nice and helpful. Second, I like helping during Shabbat dinners and Jewish holidays. At these events I have an opportunity to be with JCC members, as well as learn about Jewish culture and traditions. Every day I get to learn something new.

Meet Our Volunteer - Lila

Each month starting in January, we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar, which is dedicated to the young adults who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow. 

Where are you from?

I'm from a very small town in West Poland called Żagań.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

I wanted to learn more about Jewish culture and thought I could only do that by reading books. When I came to the JCC I found out that I could be a volunteer and learn about Jewish life today by actually being involved with the Jewish community! I talk to the Survivors, people my age who just found out they are Jewish, and with visitors from around the world. 


What is your best JCC memory/the person you met/the experience you had?
Every day is different. Every day gives you opportunity to meet new people and that's amazing. But I remember one special situation in 2015 when a man saw the sign outside the JCC, "Stop by and say hi" and so he did. After a short conversation about the JCC, I asked him how does he feel being in Krakow and if he likes it. He said yes, especially because his father is from Poland. We started to talk about his father and it turned out that he was Joseph Bialowitz, a son of Philip Bialowitz - one of the survivors from the uprising in the Sobibor camp. I couldn't believe that the son of a man that I've read so many books about was standing in front of me! I was amazed and surprised that this sign "Stop by and say hi" has that power and not only changed my life but continues to change the life of so many others.

Lila and other JCC volunteers talking about their experience at the JCC on Radio Krakow.

Lila and other JCC volunteers talking about their experience at the JCC on Radio Krakow.

What is one of your favourite things at the JCC?
I enjoy that you can be yourself and that you are surrounded by so many amazing people. Every of them are unique, beautiful, creative, and they support you no matter what. Being at the JCC I've learned how to love myself and how to share this love with others, how to be strong and never give up, and how to enjoy life - I'm very grateful for all of that.

Lila and JCC Krakow members and volunteers taking part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration.

Lila and JCC Krakow members and volunteers taking part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration.

JCC Krakow Opens First Jewish Nursery School in Krakow since World War II

Originally published by:

KRAKOW, Poland (JTA) — The JCC of Krakow has received a $500,000 grant from the New York City-based Eric and Erica Schwartz Family Foundation.

The funds will support the creation of an Early Childhood Center at JCC Krakow, located in Kazimierz, the heart of the city’s Jewish district. It will be the first time that a pluralistic Jewish nursery school will be open in Krakow since before World War II. The school is scheduled to open in fall 2017, with a soft opening earlier.

The Early Childhood Center, to be named “Frajda” meaning “joy” in both Yiddish and Polish, will be a Jewish pluralistic nursery school serving the growing number of young Jewish families in Kraków. Frajda will provide a comprehensive Jewish curriculum focusing on the holidays, history, and Jewish identity. The newly designed, state-of-the-art space is being created in consultation with leading Jewish early childhood experts from Poland, the United States, and Israel.

“The preschool years are the ideal time for learning about Jewish culture, values, and traditions. We are so pleased to make it possible for Kraków’s Jewish families to send their children to a school that will focus on providing this foundation for the youngest members of the community,” said Erica Schwartz in a statement.

“Jewish life is once again thriving in Kraków and the Schwartz family believes that this community deserves a future and that Jewish education is an integral part of that future,” said Jonathan Ornstein, executive director of JCC Krakow.

JCC Krakow also received support of The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation to underwrite the annual security needs of Frajda. Lauder was the first philanthropist to commit serious resources to rebuilding Jewish life in Poland after 1990, including restoration efforts in the Kazimierz district and its seven historic synagogues, as well as numerous educational initiatives serving the Jewish population of Kraków. His foundation today is the largest provider of Jewish education in Poland through the Lauder Morasha School in Warsaw and the Lauder E-Learning School for Jewish children in small communities across the country.

"I am proud to extend my close to 30 year commitment to Jewish life in Poland through
partnering with the JCC Krakow, the Schwartz Family, and all those who worked to make the
Frajda Early Childhood Center a reality. It is the fulfilment of my long held dream that
initiatives such as this would become natural, even inevitable, and that the sounds of Jewish
children playing and learning on the streets of Kazimierz would be heard once again".
- Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, President and Founder, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation

JCC Krakow was opened in April 2008 by The Prince of Wales. It has quickly established itself as the focal point of Jewish life for the city’s residents, as well as thousands of visitors from around Poland and the world every month. Today it has over 600 active Jewish members, including 75 Holocaust survivors.

 

 

About JCC Krakow

The Jewish Community Centre of Krakow (JCC Krakow) provides social, educational, and
community oriented services to the Jewish community of Krakow. Opened in April 2008 by
HRH, The Prince of Wales, the JCC has quickly established itself as the focal point of Jewish
life for Krakowians, as well as thousands of visitors from around the world and Poland every
month. The JCC has over 600 active Jewish members, including 75 Holocaust survivors. For
more information, please visit www.jcckrakow.org or www.friendsofjcckrakow.org.

Meet Our Volunteer - Maciej

Each month starting in January, we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar, which is dedicated to the young adults who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow. 

MACIEJ JCC MESHUGOYIM.png

Where are you from?

I'm from Krakow and studying Computer Science.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

You could say it happened by luck, but I know it was meant to be. I had just graduated from high school and decided that I wanted to help people and participate in a volunteer project. I started searching for volunteering programs in Krakow and found out about the Volunteer Program the JCC. I was unaware there was a Jewish community here and so I thought it would be a great opportunity to both help people and learn about their culture. Volunteering at the JCC has given me a unique opportunity to learn and experience Jewish culture from inside the community.

What is your best JCC experience?

I've been volunteering at the JCC for almost three years and it's really hard for me to choose! I enjoy talking to volunteers, members and tourists and listening to their stories and sharing my own. Every time I come to JCC I learn something new. JCC feels like home, it's hard to pick the best thing about home, the most amazing thing is that it just a great place to be.

Maciej and other JCC Volunteers featured in our 2017 calendar

Maciej and other JCC Volunteers featured in our 2017 calendar

What is one of your favorite things at the JCC?

The orange couch at reception. Whenever you have to leave the JCC, you can't simply do it, because you will surely meet someone and talk to them for an hour or so and you will end up sitting on the couch discussing everything. It happens every time I come to the JCC. I believe that the fact that you can enter JCC and instantly make yourself comfortable on this couch is just great!

Maciej building our JCC Sukkah

Maciej building our JCC Sukkah

Meet Our Volunteer - Magda

Each month starting in January, we will share a blog post about the Volunteer of the Month featured in our JCC 2017 calendar, which is dedicated to the young adults who spend their time volunteering at the JCC to help us rebuild Jewish life in Krakow. 

Where are you from?

I am from Kęty, a town located 80 km from Kraków.

Why did you decide to volunteer at the JCC?

During my first year of studies, I was interested in the history of Kraków and learned more about how the Holocaust affected the city. I  decided to read books written by survivors to learn more about what happened. One day when I was searching for a place to be a volunteer, I found the JCC. I thought it is the best place to find out more about Jewish culture.

What is your best JCC experience?

After spending a lot of hours at the JCC it's difficult to choose one thing. The JCC has given me so many different experiences that will help me with my career and I have also become good friends with other volunteers, members, and staff. The JCC also gives me an opportunity to meet people from around the world and hear their unique stories.

What is one of your favorite things about the JCC?

The people and the atmosphere! People are always nice, smiling, and helpful. I like helping during Jewish holidays because this is the best opportunity to get to know the members and learn about the celebrations and traditions.

Cook With JCC Krakow!

BABKA

INGREDIENTS FOR DOUGH:

  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter

 

MAKING THE DOUGH:

Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed in a mixer until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, about 4 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.)
Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

 

INGREDIENTS FOR BABKA FILLING:

Cinnamon: mix 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 tbsp of cinnamon, 1 tspn of water or oil. Add raisins if preferred
Chocolate: mix and heat 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 (3 1/2- to 4-oz) bars fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, 1/4 cup sugar
 

ASSEMBLING THE BABKA:

  • Line each loaf pan with parchment paper 
  • Roll out 1 piece of dough on a well-floured surface into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle
  • Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around
  • Sprinkle cinnamon mix or spread chocolate over dough
  • Roll one of rectangle to the other and then twist to form a figure 8 and fit into pan
  • Brush egg wash on top of babka 
  • Bake in oven for 40mins at 350°F

 

STREUSEL:

Mix 1/2 cup margarine, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour. Press it together lightly until it forms small clumps. Do not smooth out to make it feel like dough. Sprinkle on top of babka to make a crumb topping. 

 

 

BABA GANOUSH

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cumin
  • 2 tablespoons of tahini

 

PREPARATION

Heat the oven up to 370°F. Wash the eggplants and make small holes in the skin with a fork. Place the eggplants on the aluminum foil and bake them in the oven for around 45 minutes. Eggplants should be baked until the skin starts to shrink (the skin should be thin and well baked, inside the eggplant should be well baked and soft).

Cool the eggplants, cut in two halves and take out inside with the spoon. Put the eggplant squash into the bowl, add lemon juice, salt, olive oil, and tahini. Mix all the ingredients into paste. Keep the paste in the fridge. 

 

GIMEL in the US

Adam-Adamah participants in front of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee

Adam-Adamah participants in front of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee

The Adam-Adamah project, based on tikkun olam, made me think how I can change my life to find more time to do something for others. It showed me that by learning from each other we can improve the world. 
Olga, GIMEL Jewish Student Club Member

From the 11th till the 18th of September, the JCC's GIMEL Jewish Student Club traveled to the USA as a part of Adam-Adamah project. Adam-Adamah is a collaborative environmental conservation project of JCC Krakow, the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee and the Ginot Ha'Ir Community Council in Jerusalem. Adam Adamah is the result of JCC Global's Amitim-­Fellows Program which connects JCCs across the world. The trip started in Milwaukee, where the group toured the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. They were surprised to find that some of the members of the senior club had Polish roots and could speak Polish! The GIMEL members and the seniors had a lot to share about Poland and Jewish life in Krakow. On the second day our students went on a one-day trip to Chicago, where they spent the day seeing the most remarkable sights of the city. After this relaxing beginning of the trip, the time for hard work finally began! On the third day all the participants of the Adam-Adamah project hiked through a park to admire Lake Michigan and then went to Rainbow Day Camp where they spent the day picking vegetables and tried outdoor activities such as archery and laser tag. The next day, the vegetables were placed in the food cooperative which provides food for people in need. The students helped prepare and package the food for distribution.

At the Rainbow Day Camp harvesting fresh produce for the Jewish Community Food Pantry.

At the Rainbow Day Camp harvesting fresh produce for the Jewish Community Food Pantry.

Volunteering at the Jewish Community Food Pantry in Milwaukee.

Volunteering at the Jewish Community Food Pantry in Milwaukee.

Volunteering at the Jewish Community Food Pantry in Milwaukee.

Volunteering at the Jewish Community Food Pantry in Milwaukee.

In the evening they joined a conference for young Jewish leaders, and the next day the participants of the project took part in art workshops. Divided into groups, the students were instructed to express common aspects of their Jewish identities. Later they were given a tour around Growing Power, a nonprofit organization and land trust which breeds animals and grows vegetables for sale. Later all the participants of the Adam-Adamah project had a Shabbat dinner at local JCC.

The participants from JCC GIMEL were grateful to have taken part in this project.  Here's what the event meant to them:

The final session the Adam-Adamah project was a unique experience for most of the Polish participants, and for myself as well. It was a week full of hard work and we learned a lot, we found the projects extremely inspiring and we have returned motivated to apply what we learned to help our community in Krakow. 
Asia, GIMEL Jewish Student Club Member

JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein and JCC Krakow Board Member Edyta Gawron with GIMEL Jewish Student Club members in Milwaukee

JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein and JCC Krakow Board Member Edyta Gawron with GIMEL Jewish Student Club members in Milwaukee

Read an Interview With Mundek, Our Native Yiddish Speaker!

Our friend and volunteer, an accomplished Yiddish speaker, Marc interviewed Mundek - an active JCC member and one of the last native Yiddish speakers in Krakow - about his family, his involvement with the JCC, and life before the war. Marc's grandmother, who is from Poland and is a native Yiddish speaker as well, joined us at the JCC for Shabbat dinner a few weeks ago and also spoke with Mundek in Yiddish about their lives before and after the war.

 

 

מאַרק שאָרין: ווו איז איר געבוירען געוואָרען?

מונדיק: איך בין געבוירען געוואָרען אין קרוקע, אינעם שטאָט… אין 1931, 2ער אין יאַנואַר.

מש: דאָך ווי האָט איר ייִדיש געלערנט?

מ: דאָס איז אַ וויכטיקער פֿראַגע. איך האָט געוווינט אין אַ קליינער שטעטל [נאָך בין איך געבוירען געוואָרען אין קרוקע]... 23 קילאָמעטער מיזרח פֿון קרוקע. דער שטעטל, הײסט ער נאָווע בזשעסקאָ ["Nowe Brzesko"]. פֿאַר דער חורבן, כ'האָט געהאַט 2 שוועסטערן, און מײַן טאַטע-מאַמע [וואָס האָבן אַסימילירן זיך געהאַט]. זי [די מאַמע] האָט נאָר געקענט פויליש, געדענקט אַלע די צײַטען אין פויליש… ווײסטו, אַז פוילין איז געווען אונטער מאַרשאַל פיוסודסקי ["Piłsudski"] -- [נאָר] נאָך דעם ערשטער וועלטסקריג איז פוילין געווען אָפגעשטאַנען, איז פֿריעס געווען פֿון רוסלאַנד… ס'איז נישט [קײן צו] וויכטיק. [מײַנע עלטערן, מײַן קולטור, זענען זײ געווען ײִדיש, הגם, אַז איז אונדזער אויסינווייניקסטער וועלט פויליש געווען. ס'איז] דאָך, אַז ווען איך האָט 6 יאָרן געהאַט, כ'בין נאָל אַוועקגעשליחט צו אַ חדר. דאָרט איך האָט שנעל ייִדיש געלערנט… ווען איך האָט 7 יאָרן [געהאַט], האָבן די דײַטשן [באַפֿאַלן] פוילין -- זענען זײ געווען די היטלערסדײַטשן, די פֿאַנאַטיקערס, די אַנטיסעמיטס; ס'איז די געניג צו זאָגן, יאָ? זײ זענען געווען קעגן ייִדן. ס'איז געווען אַז ווען זײ זענען געקימען, אַז ייִדישע קינדער [קענען נישט מער] לערן זיך… מיר זענען נישט קײן זייער פֿרימע געווען. מיר האָבן געהאַט אַ געשעפֿט, פוילישע קונים… [און אויך,] די זייער פֿרימע האָבן באָרדס געהאַט. ווען די דײַטשען זענען געקימען, האָבן זײ געשפילט מיט די ײִדן. [ס'איז געווען, למושל,] אַ ייִד מיט אַ באָרד, וואָס האָט געמאַכט אַ "בײנקינג" געשעפֿט אינעם שטאָט, נאָווע בזשעסקאָ. האָבן זײ גענימען אַ פֿריזער צו [גאָלן] דער באָרד. אָבער אײן האָט געזאָגט, אַז ער, דער פֿריזער, איז [אויך] אַ ייִד. [דאָך] האָבן די דײַטשן אָפגעשרײַבן זײַן געלט, און האָבן [דער געלט אויסגעטײלט] צו פוילישע קינדער. אונדזערע צורות איז געווען זײער אַ סך.

 

Marc Schorin: Where were you born?

Mundek: I was born in Krakow, in the city… in 1931, the 2nd of January.

MS: So how did you come to learn Yiddish?

M: This is an important question. I lived in a small town [after having been born in Krakow]... 23 kilometers west of Krakow. The town is called Nowe Brzesko. Before the Holocaust, I had two sisters and two parents[, both of which had largely assimilated]. She[, my mother,] only knew Polish, [only] read the news in Polish… You know, Poland was under Marshal Piłsudski[‘s control] — [only] after the First World War did Poland become independent, [become] free from Russia… this isn’t [too] important. [My parents, my culture, were Jewish, despite our surroundings being Polish. This is] how it came to pass that at the age of 6, I was sent off to a religious school. There I quickly learned Yiddish… When I [was] 7 years old, the Germans [attacked] Poland — these were the Hitler-Germans, the fanatics, the anti-Semites; it’s enough to leave it at that, no? They were against Jews. When they came, Jews were [no longer] permitted to go to school… We[, meaning my family,] were not very religious. We had a business, Polish customers… [Furthermore,] the very religious [ones] had beards. When the Germans came, they played with the Jews. [There was, for instance,] a Jew with a beard, who ran a bank in town, Nowe Brzesko. They had a barber shave off the beard. But someone said that he, the barber, is [also] a Jew. [So] the Germans confiscated his money, and [redistributed it] among the [town’s] Polish children. We had very many sorrows.