(updated October 2014)
The Foundation was launched in 1988. It was modelled to the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation which already existed at Oxford University in England. At the same time, a sister organization of the same name with similar goals was founded in Toronto. While open to the broader public, our membership is comprised mainly of Christians and Jews of Polish origin. Many of the world's Jews have their roots in Poland and, given centuries of common history, it is not surprising that there is a rich legacy to draw on. Our objective is to foster a better understanding of Polish-Jewish history and culture, and to encourage an honest, open-minded dialogue between Jews and Poles. We believe this will contribute to mutual understanding and help us shed old prejudices and stereotypes destructive to both Poles and Jews.
Over the years we have learned that it is not easy to promote such goals. We believe, however, that even minor progress is a contribution to others worldwide who strive for a peace and reconciliation among various antagonistic ethnic and religious groups. This goal of utmost importance is difficult to achieve among nations or groups which are culturally alienated. In our case, however, the history of Polish-Jewish relations and our shared cultural heritage give us reason to believe that our activities, despite inevitable difficulties, are not only worth the effort but stand to be successful.
The Foundation collaborates with our sister organization, The Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada in Toronto. Our objectives are shared and supported by some of the most prominent scholars, artists and writers in Canada, Great Britain, the United States, Israel and Poland. Since its creation, the Foundation has organized a series of lectures, seminars, discussions, film screenings, exhibits and concerts. Among our eminent guests were Archbishop Henryk Muszynski and Rabbi Dow Marmur. We also welcomed such distinguished personalities as Władysław Bartoszewski, Marek Edelman, Konstanty Gebert, Agnieszka Holland, Jan Karski, Krystyna Kersten, Jerzy Kłoczowski, Stanisław Krajewski, Hanna Krall, Norman Davies, Elzbieta Ficowska, Jan Grabowski, Dr Victor Goldbloom( he was CEO of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews), Sara Arm, Joanna Wiszniewicz and Slawomir Grunberg.
Every year in December we organize our traditional Hanukkah-Christmas - New Year celebration for members and friends of our Foundation.
In 2001 we began our publication project, the publication of Holocaust Memoirs. Our aim is to seek out and publish the testimonies of survivors in order to distribute them to libraries for the benefit of future generations.
Publication of Memoirs
A number of people who survived the German occupation of Poland during WWII are still alive and are scattered around the world. Each of their personal histories is woven into the fabric of the momentous events of that time. Their recollections of tragic or fortunate experiences, fateful life decisions and miraculous deliverances form valuable historical records. They tell us much about those perilous times. The more testimonies we have from those times, the broader our knowledge will be of the world around us and the deeper our understanding of it becomes. We must not allow the facts to fade away into oblivion as the witnesses pass on. We must also ensure that those who did not survive are never forgotten.
We are encouraging those who already have written their memoirs to publish them. Those who are inclined to write, but have not yet recorded their experiences, are urged to do so. Copies of these books have been offered gratis and sent to a number of different university libraries in Poland, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and many libraries and Holocaust centers in the world.
For more details, click on the OUR BOOKS link. Any questions or proposals from people interested in the publication of memoirs should be addressed to Ilona Gruda (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Agata Kozanecka (email@example.com)
The Web site
Our Web site www.Polish-Jewish-Heritage.org was created in 2001 by Irena Bellert. Its aim has been to extend our activity by reaching even the most remote Poles and Jews who share our cultural heritage and our interest in Polish-Jewish history and relations. During the last four years it has indeed fostered and broadened a mutual understanding between Jews and Poles far beyond the region around the city of Montreal, as shown by the letters to the web editor from Christians and Jews around the world expressing appreciation of our online activity.
The Home Page of our Web site opens with links leading to different sections. The INTERVIEW link opens pages with five original interviews accorded to us in 1999 by Professor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, outstanding historian, author of numerous books and articles on World War II and modern history; prisoner of Auschwitz under the German occupation of Poland and later co-founder of 'Zegota' (the Council for Aid to Jews). In the interviews, he responds to several questions selected by members of our Foundation as representative of those most often asked. These questions reflect an insufficient knowledge of the history of Jews in Poland, which in turn often leads to mutual accusations. The interviews help clarify the most common misunderstandings and contribute to an honest dialogue.
The PUBLICATIONS link gives access to many published articles. Other than some controversial, often aggressive articles, there is not much in North American publications on Jewish-Polish relations, nor on our shared cultural heritage. This being the case, we have decided to provide our readers with information on these topics, drawn from the press in Poland, a rich source for such material. We also go through English online newspapers and periodicals, from all over the world, in our effort to find articles which would be of interest to our readers.
We have divided our Web site into Polish and English sections. In Poland we collaborate, among others, with the editors of the Christian Culture Foundation www.Forum-znak.com.pl, the editors of WIEZ, who have given us permission to reprint the articles from THOU SHALT NOT KILL: Poles on Jedwabne, a special English edition of WIEZ, We also collaborate with the Judaica CENTRE OF JEWISH CULTURE in Krakow, the OTWARTA RZECZPOSPOLITA Association whose aim is to fight anti-Semitism and all other forms of xenophobia, NIGDY WIECEJ (Never Again), an organization established by Polish university students to promote multicultural understanding and education against racial and ethnic prejudices among the young. We are open to further collaboration with organizations that share our goals.
We advise our readers that the political and social views or interpretations of facts reported by the authors of articles published on our Web site are not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation. In wanting to bring various points of view to our readers without resorting to censorship, the editors cannot assume responsibility for the authors' opinions. Canadian Laws prohibit us, however, from publishing chauvinistic or extreme nationalistic texts spreading hatred among ethnic or religious groups.
We do not have a team of editors working for our Web site. I am a rather lonely Web editor. Let me use this opportunity to invite our readers, to send e-mails to the editor whenever they come across an interesting article on a topic conforming to our goals, giving its title, author, and name of periodical and date of issue or its internet address, which will be much appreciated.
Errors are unavoidable, given our lack of professional staff. Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome.
We wish to thank the Polish Socio-Cultural Foundation of Montreal for the subsidy that we receive every year towards the publication of our memoirs, and for expenses associated with our web site. I gratefully acknowledge the donation received from many others donors: Mrs. Judy Rosenvald in support of our web site and I also thank Mr. Alex Soyka for his greatly appreciated contribution in 2004.
I wish to extend my gratitude to many volunteers who regularly contributed time and energy to our Web site.
Mail to our Web site: firstname.lastname@example.org