February 13, 2003
Prime Minister Touts Museum
If there was any doubt that the Polish government is taking seriously plans to build a Museum of Polish Jewish History in Warsaw, they were put to rest Feb. 5 in Beverly Hills.
That's when Leszek Miller, prime minister of Poland, met with about 100 area Jews to reaffirm his commitment to the long-planned project. "We want to reach beyond the image of Poland as a place of martyrdom for the Jews," said Miller in his brief prepared remarks. "The museum will be a great educational project, and a symbol of our new approach to the history of the Jews."
Miller's appearance before the gathering of Jewish religious and communal leaders, including Holocaust survivors and elected officials, was organized by the Consulate General of Poland in cooperation with the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee). It took place during the first visit by a Polish prime minister to the West Coast, according to Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk.
Miller announced the establishment of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw last January. The multimedia museum, to be designed by Frank Gehry, is to be completed in 2006.
Polish officials, who say that as many as 80 percent of Jews across the world can trace their roots back to Poland, hope the museum will spur Jewish tourism to their country. They are also hoping that Jewish donors abroad will help fund some of the museum's estimated $63 million cost.
Among other exhibits, the museum will recreate the homes and streets representing 1,000 years of Jewish civilization in Poland. The Nazi invasion and deportation to death camps claimed the lives of the majority of Poland's 3.5 million Jewish population, which had been the largest in Europe.
Miller said the museum is part of an agenda of reconciliation between Poland and world Jewry that includes the restitution for Jewish property, restoration of Jewish cemeteries, commemoration of victims at death camps throughout Poland, and increasing ties between young Jews and Poles, and between Polish and Jewish entrepreneurs. The museum itself will demonstrate "how important a place was occupied by Jews in the history of Poland," said Miller.
AJCommittee Los Angeles chapter President Peter Weil said Miller's appearance, amidst high level visits with high-tech entrepreneurs and a previous state visit with President George W. Bush, was a clear indication of the value the Polish government places on its relations with world Jewry.
Along with Miller and the consul general, guests heard remarks from Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJCommittee's West Coast regional director; County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Adrien Brody, star of "The Pianist," and museum director Jerzy Halberstadt.
For more information the Museum of Polish Jewish History in Warsaw, go to www.jewishmuseum.org.pl . -- Staff Report
Media "Blitz" New Israel Fund Cuts Back
The New Israel Fund will centralize and scale back its U.S. offices in the hopes of pumping $1 million more toward peace and social justice efforts in Israel. The Washington-based group, which promotes peace and civil rights programs in Israel, will close regional offices in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, and expand hubs in New York and San Francisco, the group announced Feb. 6.
For the three-person Los Angeles staff who will soon face unemployment as a result of consolidation, the recent news brings mixed reactions.
"I still strongly believe in the importance of the organization and the value of its work in Israel, and I understand that the international board that made the decision took a lot of issues into consideration in reaching its conclusions," said Los Angeles New Israel Fund Director David Moses. "At the same time, I'm deeply disappointed in the closing of this office. We've had 4 years of continuous growth and increased visibility in the Los Angeles Jewish community and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished here."
The move was aimed at lowering the group's overhead and consolidating operations, and should largely fund the additional $1 million for Israel, officials said. The fund said it has awarded $120 million to 700 Israeli groups since 1979. -- Rachel Brand, Staff Writer