Jewish history museum in Poland gains crucial donations ahead of 2013 opening

Warsaw's Museum of the History of Polish Jews, scheduled to open its doors in late 2013, has secured several million dollars in new donations. Located in the going up in the heart of the former Jewish ghetto of the Polish capital, the museum will tell the 1,000-year history of Jews in Poland.

The museum said it had received a joint US$ 7-million donation from the Koret Foundation and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, California-based philanthropies chaired by Tad Taube, a Polish-born American businessman. Jan Kulczyk, a Polish oil tycoon, also announced a gift of PLZ 20 million Polish (US$ 6 million) earlier this week. Museum officials warmly welcomed the gifts, saying the money would allow them to finish the museum’s core exhibition, a multimedia space that will guide visitors chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Until shortly before the Holocaust, there were about 3.5 million Jews living in Poland. It was then the largest Jewish community in the world. Polish Jews accounted for around a tenth of Poland pre-war population and made significant contributions to Polish culture, science and politics. “There is no history of Poland without the Jews and no history of Jews without Poland,” said Piotr Wislicki, the chairman of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.

The museum expects to become Europe’s largest Jewish history museum and an institution that will “take its place alongside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as one of the most important institutions of its kind.”

“The key difference is that the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will extend the historical narrative beyond the Holocaust to encompass an epic Jewish heritage - from which the majority of world Jewry descends and that, even today, shapes contemporary Jewish life all across the globe,” the museum said.

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