Poland: Open Jewish University launches

The Shalom Foundation announced on Friday that it was launching the Jewish Open University in Warsaw, Poland. Classes in Jewish literature, culture, music and philosophy will begin in January 2010.

The part-time two-semester program has already enrolled some 30 students, with room for 60. It is backed by Warsaw University.

The joint Polish-American-Israeli foundation is dedicated to reviving Jewish traditions in Poland and preserving the lost culture of what was Europe’s former Jewish heartland.

The Shalom Foundation organization was created in 1988 mainly by graduates of the I. L. Perec Jewish School (which no longer exists) in Lódz.

Before the Holocaust, Poland had some 3.5 million Jews. Following the Holocaust and the killing of some 6 million European Jews, there were only 280,000 Jews in Poland. Today, the estimate is from 3,500-15,000 in a mainly Catholic general population of 38 million.

It is however almost impossible to say how many Poles have some Jewish ancestry. According to Jewish history, western European Jews first emigrated to Poland to escape 11th century pogroms. During the war, Jewish children were hidden with Polish families and some in these and other situations are also rediscovering their roots.

One version of the story appeared here. Read more about the Foundation’s many activities.

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