• Meetings

    Reconnecting Ties

When borders between Poland and the Western world reopened after 1989, followed by the reestablishment of  diplomatic ties between Poland and Israel, great numbers of Jews young and old started coming to Poland, looking for a connection with the country that for many was the land of their ancestors. Poland was and remains important for many Jews if not because of a personal connection than because it was the site of the Holocaust.

These journeys to Poland were and are very challenging and emotionally demanding, and have been the subject of numerous publications, films or plays. These accounts often depict the miscommunications and alienation the visitors feel when searching for clues about where they came from and what has happened to those members of the family who stayed in Poland, or when seeing what has happened to whatever traces remaining of a once vibrant Jewish community.

At the same time, since the fall of Communism and the newly opened possibilities of a democratic state, after decades of the “Communist freeze” on all things connected to Polish/Jewish past, Poles have begun grappling with their complicated history. Realizing just how much of the shared Polish/Jewish history was simply removed from the collective memory of the population, they also strive to reconnect with the Poland of the past.

Aware that an important link was almost severed between Poland and its Jews, non-Jewish Poles work hard to bring back and keep the memory of the Jews who perished and embrace the Jewish community that is alive: both the small Jewish community in Poland and the larger community abroad.

Since the Polish Jewish community is relatively small in an almost 40 million society, most of the people dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the memory of Polish Jews in Poland rarely have an opportunity to meet a Jew. They spend hours learning about personal stories of Jews who lived in their towns many decades ago, but have never talked with a person who identifies as Jewish.

Forum recognizes that a real and meaningful reconnection between people must happen during face-to-face encounters. This is why since 2010 we have been organizing meetings between Jewish visitors to Poland and participants of our programs in Poland: the School of Dialogue students and Leaders of Dialogue. Our experience is that for both groups these meetings are important stepping stones in rebuilding connections and starting a dialogue. The students and the Leaders feel reinforced when their work is appreciated and recognized as important, the visitors are grateful that there exist a community of people in Poland invested in preserving the memory of Jews alive.