Meet Our Members - Agnieszka, Weronika & Anna!

January .png

Agnieszka has a degree in biology but currently she works in real estate and renovation of buildings. She is interested in design, architecture, and the history of Krakow. She is a cinema aficionado, a cat person, and a traveler who likes discovering new places on her trips. She has a twin sister.

Weronika, Agnieszka’s daughter, likes cooking and discovering new cuisines; she is especially fond of Asian cuisine. Just as her mother and aunt Anna, Weronika is passionate about discovering the unknown history of their family. She regularly campaigns for improving the welfare of farm animals. Her British Shorthair Sven is her most treasured friend.

Anna, Agnieszka’s sister, is a clinical psychologist. She started working on clinical trials of new drugs together with her father, who was a professor of psychiatry and worked as the head of the Department and Clinic of Psychiatry in Krakow. She has been married for 26 years. She has a 22-year-old son, who currently lives and studies in England. Together with her sister, she enjoys travelling around the world as well as discovering new places in and around Krakow. She is interested in medicine, biology, and popular culture. Agnieszka and Anna were raised in an atheist family. Therefore, they are more interested in Judaism from a cultural than a religious standpoint. Before discovering their Jewish roots and becoming JCC members, they have attended various events organized by the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow and have expressed their interest in Jewish culture.


ECC Morim.png

For the past ten days we’ve had the pleasure of participating in the 2017 Early Childhood Morim Project, organized by SOS International: Bridging Jewish Communities. This project is targeted at educators and teachers who work in Jewish nurseries and kindergartens. Delegates from three countries have been invited to join this year’s edition of the project: Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. We, Olga Danek and Małgorzata Pustuł, representatives of JCC Krakow’s ECC „Frajda,” have been fortunate to enjoy the company of fellow educators Dalia Golda („Gradinita Gan Eden,” Bucharest, Romania) and Vanessa Cameron („Gan Balagan,” Sofia, Bolgaria).

We started our trip by taking part in the Jewish Early Childhood Education Conference, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. As many as 750 teachers gathered together at the conference. Our group attended sessions led by Mark Horowitz (Director of the Sheva Center for Innovation in Early Childhood, Jewish Education & Engagement) and Dr. Erika Brown. At the conference, we met directors and educators from various kindergartens, who invited us to visit their educational institutions during our stay. Dalia and Vanessa worked at the Beth Sholom Early Childhood Center, and we got assigned to the Sondra and Howard Bender Early Childhood Center at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington. Ora Cohen Rosenfeld, Director of the Sondra and Howard Bender Early Childhood Center, and the Center’s teacher Sandy Levine Lanes told us a lot about their work, shared their best practices, and demonstrated how the Reggio Emilia approach was being implemented at their school.

The Reggio Emilia approach, which has evolved into an educational system, is a teaching method focused on preschool and primary education, based on the philosophy of Loris Malaguzzi. It was developed in Italy in 1945, spearheaded by the residents of the town Reggio Emilia, who wanted to open a school that would differ from more traditional educational institutions. According to this approach, teaching is an ever-evolving process, subject to constant changes and transformations depending on the needs and observations of teachers, parents and children. Teachers who practice this method should be open to new knowledge, and the wellbeing of children is both a starting point and a goal.

We’ve been observing the work of the Center’s teachers for a week, while also working with children ourselves. Everyone has been very understanding and patient with us, answering our many questions. In addition to our work at the Center, we’ve also had the opportunity to see other nurseries and kindergartens that use the Reggio Emilia approach: we’ve been given a tour of The Rose and George Teller Preschool of Shaare Tefila (a Jewish religious kindergarten in Maryland), led by Beth Adler, and a tour of Rodef Shalom Preschool, led by its former director Fran Pfeffer.

Our stay and program of events were organized by Mara Bier (Senior Education Officer for Early Childhood Education, Greater Washington area; EC Morim Project Advisor), Glynis Rosenberg Smith (Chief Operating Officer), Alan M. Reinitz (Chief Executive Officer) and Fran Pfeffer (EC Morim Project Advisor). 

Meet Our Volunteers - Agnieszka & Kuba!


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.


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! 


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!


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.


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. 



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.


JCC Krakow celebrates opening of Early Childhood Center "Frajda"


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.

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.

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.