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BREAKING: Poles Have a Complicated History with Jews!

The New York Times, proud of its centuries-long tradition of reporting on "trends" years after their expiration dates, was contemplating what to cover in July 2007. The up-and-coming Lower East Side? Nah, better wait five years. The East Coast-West Coast … Read More

By / July 12, 2007

The New York Times, proud of its centuries-long tradition of reporting on "trends" years after their expiration dates, was contemplating what to cover in July 2007. The up-and-coming Lower East Side? Nah, better wait five years. The East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry? That could be good. How about that new personal computing trend of using so-called "floppy disks" to store kilobytes of information from the computer? Genius! But in the end, the Paper of Record bought a ticket abroad to see what life was like for Jews in post-Jewish Eastern Europe. Thus it came up with a piece on Krakow's Festival of Jewish Culture, citing a phenomenon as "beginning" when it's been happening for almost two decades. The article could easily have been written in 1995. In fact, it sort of was. Here's The New York Times, July 12, 2007:

KRAKOW, Poland — There is a curious thing happening in this old country, scarred by Nazi death camps, raked by pogroms and blanketed by numbing Soviet sterility: Jewish culture is beginning to flourish again. "Jewish style" restaurants are serving up platters of pirogis, klezmer bands are playing plaintive Oriental melodies, derelict synagogues are gradually being restored. Every June, a festival of Jewish culture here draws thousands of people to sing Jewish songs and dance Jewish dances. The only thing missing, really, are Jews. … with relatively few Jews, Jewish culture in Poland is being embraced and promoted by the young and the fashionable. …"You cannot have genocide and then have people live as if everything is normal," said Konstanty Gebert, founder of a Polish-Jewish monthly, Midrasz. "It's like when you lose a limb. Poland is suffering from Jewish phantom pain."

Here's The International Herald Tribune, July 17, 1995:

… Throughout the festival week, the old Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, and other parts of the city were the scene of concerts, theatrical performances, exhibitions, films, street happenings and workshops rooted in Jewish heritage. … The irony of staging a Jewish festival for a predominantly non-Jewish audience, in what essentially is a Jewish ghost town, has been apparent from the beginning. … In addition, chic new Jewish style restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and galleries have been opened. There is a new Jewish Culture Center, and a local travel agency specializes in tours of sites related to Steven Spielberg's movie "Schindler's List," which was shot in Krakow. …fascination with the Jewish world destroyed by the Holocaust has grown among many non-Jews in the region. New Jewish museums, study programs and seminars abound, and Jewish books proliferate even in countries where few Jews remain. … It's as if the vacuum created by the Holocaust physically demands to be filled — whether or not there are Jews to fill it.

Next up, The Times plans to send a reporter to Afghanistan to report on the growing use of "Mujahideen" to combat Soviet troops.

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