note the following four interesting programs on the Polish-Jewish
themes at this year’s Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, Aug 30 – Sep 5,
For full listing of the festival events and additional information please go to www.ashkenaz.ca
We Keep Coming Back Canadian Premiere
Saturday, September 3, 8:30-10pm
Studio Theatre – 235 Queens Quay West, Harbourfront, Toronto
Tickets – see the information below
mother and son, both descendants of Polish Holocaust survivors, return
to Poland in the hopes of finding their lost identity and using their
quest as a way to reconnect their own fractured relationship. The plot,
however, takes an unexpected turn when Michael and Mary discover a
vibrant contemporary world of Jewish life in Poland. Unbeknownst to
them, their journey will reveal a parallel narrative among Poles seeking
a reconnection with lost Jewish identities. An unexpected story is
born. We Keep Coming Back explores the politics of memory, trauma and
stereotype, filtered through the complex investigation of a mother and
son trying to repair their relationship to Judaism, each other and
themselves. It is performed by real-life mother and son, Mary Berchard
and Michael Rubenfeld, as well as Katka Reszke, author of “Return of the
Jew”. It’s presented in a media rich environment, incorporating video
footage, archival material, and music.
performance will be followed at 10pm by a talkback in the Marilyn
Brewer Community Gallery with the cast of the show, which will
simultaneously serve as a lead-in to the 11pm screening of the
documentary film “Raise the Roof.”
Tickets: $20 in advance / $24 day-of
Koffler Centre of the Arts
Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto
Raise the Roof (2015)
Saturday September 3, 11pm
Studio Theatre – 235 Queens Quay West, Harbourfront, Toronto
Directed by Yari and Cary Wolinsky (USA) 85 minutes
“How often do you get a chance to reach deep into history and bring something back?” -Rick Brown
by images of the magnificent wooden synagogues of 18th century Poland –
the last of which were destroyed by the Nazis – artists Rick &
Laura Brown of Handshouse Studio set out to reconstruct a replica of the
stunning, mural-covered Gwozdziec synagogue. Working with a team of 300
artisans and students from around the world, using only period hand
tools and techniques, the Browns finally realized their dream. In 2014,
the show-stopping reconstruction of the Gwozdziec synagogue roof was
unveiled as the centerpiece of the new POLIN Museum of the History of
Polish Jews, in Warsaw. Filmmakers Yari and Cary Wolinsky’s beautifully
photographed and rendered film Raise the Roof, tells the story of this remarkable 10 year project against the backdrop of the 1000 year history of Jews in Poland.
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival
Katka Reszke Boston
“The Meshugene Effect”
Sunday September 4, 6-7pm,
MBCS – 235 Queens Quay West, Harbourfront, Toronto
the fall of communism, thousands of people in Poland have discovered
Jewish roots. Among them is a peculiar category of those, whose
discovery was preceded by a ‘hunch’ – an irrational conviction that they
were Jewish before they actually knew they were Jewish. “The Meshugene
Effect” is a research-creation project, which explores cultural and
discursive contingencies surrounding religion, gender and authenticity.
Katka Reszke tries to make sense of the personal narratives of several
Polish women (including her own), who embarked on a pursuit of Jewish
identity following a feeling, an intuition, an uncanny precognition
about their Jewish descent. These self-narratives reveal different ways
of making sense of extraordinary experiences of memory and transition
set against the landscape of troubled Polish-Jewish history and a new
curious Polish-Jewish present.
Katka Reszke is
a Polish-born, U.S.-based writer, filmmaker, photographer, researcher
in Jewish identities, as well as an occasional performer (www.wekeepcomingback.com). She is the author of “Return of the Jew” and the screenwriter of “Karski & The Lords of Humanity”.
Leo Spellman’s Lost Rhapsody:
A Documentary Film In-progress
Sunday September 4, 7pm
Studio Theatre – 235 Queens Quay West, Harbourfront, Toronto
2011, Director David Hoffert and Producers Paul and Brenda Hoffert and
Jeff Preyra have been making an increasingly epic documentary film about
the late Toronto pianist, composer and Holocaust survivor Leo Spellman.
The story began with the discovery, re-orchestration and ultimate
Canadian premiere (at the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival) of Spellman’s long
lost orchestral masterpiece, “Rhapsody 1939-1945”. Originally
composed in 1947 in a German DP camp, the composition musically tells
Spellman’s haunting and hopeful story of perseverance against all odds.
Two months after this landmark performance, Leo Spellman passed
away at the age of 99. The project appeared to be finished, until
Spellman’s wartime diaries were discovered among his belongings.
Representing some of the most significant, and harrowing, first-person
accounts of survival during the Holocaust, the diaries added a new
dimension to the narrative of the film. The documentary has continued to
evolve over the last three years, taking the team to Poland for a
triumphant performance of the Rhapsody with an eighty-five piece
orchestra, and to Spellman’s hometown of Ostrowiec, where the mayor
unveiled a plaque honouring their former resident. Join the filmmakers
for a sneak peak at their work-in-progress, as it nears completion in
the coming year. A new trailer will be presented along with preliminary
sequences from the film, footage from the’ two trips to Poland, and
excerpts of the unique animation that is being incorporated into the
film as dramatizations of the material in Spellman’s diaries.
Dear Members and Friends of PJHF,
It is with great sadness that we are saying goodbye to the long time friend and
supporter of the PJHF, Dr. Victor Goldbloom who passed away on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016
at the age of 92.
He was a dedicated pediatrician, university professor, Quebec provincial politician
and most of all, a devoted advocate of the dialogue and reconciliation between
different communities, in particular between Christians and Jews.
During the years 1979 and 1987, Dr. Victor Goldbloom served as the president of the
Canadian Council of Christians and Jews.
In 1991, he was appointed Canada's commissioner of official languages, serving until
Last year, Dr. Goldbloom published "Building Bridges," a book of anecdotes and
memories about his five decades in public service.
Dr. Victor Goldbloom is survived by his wife, Sheila and three children.
He will be dearly missed.
Board of directors of PJHF
Dear Members and Friends of PJHF,
With great regret we are informing you about the passing of Władysław Bartoszewski, the prominent Polish politician, historian, writer and social activist. Member of the Underground Resistance, prisoner of Auschwitz and the soldier of the Polish Home Army, he was a founding member of Zegota - the Polish Clandestine Council for Aid to the Jews in Warsaw, and a participant of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. As an outstanding authority on the history of the German occupation of Poland during World War II, he wrote over fifty books and articles. One of them: "1969 Righteous Among Nations: How Poles Helped the Jews 1939 - 1945", was one of the first on the subject.
For us, members of PJHF, he was a mentor, a friend and an important contributor to Polish-Jewish dialogue and reconciliation.
In 1999 (along with the Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies) we had the privilege of hosting him here in Montreal. At the University of McGill, he gave the lecture "Polish Memory, Jewish Memory, History, Dialogue and Understanding".
Władysław Bartoszewski was an enthusiastic supporter of PJHF. Irena Bellert, the PJHF president at the time, recorded a long and compelling interview with Władysław Bartoszewski, available on our web site www.polish-jewish-heritage.org
Board of directors of PJHF
Conference Miejsce po - miejsce bez
April 9-10 2015 at Fabryki Emalia Oskara Schindlera, 4 Lipowa st., Krakow.
For live streaming of the conference, find the link (after April 7) at the museum's web site on this page.
Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa
12/619 23 31
Threads: Life Saving
Sugihara Visas and
the Journey to
April 10 - July 1
Ogden Avenue in
Vancouver, BC V6J
celebration of the
50th anniversary of
Maritime Museum is
proud to present Invisible
Visas and the
tells the story of
the thousands of
Jewish refugees who
fled from Nazi
during World War II
and traveled to
Japan using transit
visas issued by
against the direct
orders of his
refugees to enter
Japan. From the
ports of Kobe and
boarded Nippon Yusen
Kaisha (NYK) cruise
ships crossing the
Pacific Ocean and
arrived safely in
A vast network of
recipients and their
spreads across the
is an important part
of this network as
many of the
passed through our
city and some have
even made it their
from Yokohama, NYK
shipping lines and
families saved by
Sugihara, some of
whom still live in
of his compassion
Sugihara is forever
to the lives of
those he saved and
the generations of
Chiune Sugihara was
born on January 1,
in Yaotsu, Gifu
Prefecture, Japan, 1900 to a middle-class family. Languages were his
passion and he
studied English at
He was recruited by
the Japanese Foreign
Ministry where his
charisma and talent
for languages led to
his promotion to
Vice-Consul of the
in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1939. From this strategic location, the
was able to use
Chiune Sugihara to
report on the
movements of both
Russian and German
Chiune Sugihara and
nature have touched
the lives of
thousands of people.
His generosity and
recognized the world
museums which can be
in Kaunas, Tsuruga,
his birthplace of
Yaotsu and even Los
Angeles. In 1985,
Chiune Sugihara was
granted the honour
of "Righteous Among
the Nations" by Yad
actions of this
great man are also
promoted through the
Visas For Life and
Society. This year
also marked the
presentation of the
Civil Courage Award
to former B.C.
This year marks the
50th anniversary of
Yokohama, Japan and
Canada. Since 1965,
been well supported
officials and staff.
To commemorate the
milestone this year,
the cities are
working together in
2015 to further
About the Vancouver Maritime Museum:
Maritime Museum is a
museum and gallery
that celebrates the
significance of the
oceans and waterways
of the Pacific and
Arctic, through the
growth of its
collection, and as a
centre for dialogue,
604-257-8302 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Invitation to a meeting with eyewitness Marcel Kurzmann,
Historical Museum of the City of Krakow
Thursday March 12th 2015, at 18.00
The Eagle Factory, 18 Bohaterów Getta Square, Krakow
Marcel Kurzmann (b. 1935), will talk about his family's wartime experiences, being deported deep into the Soviet Union, returning to Krakow and experiencing the first post-war years. Marcel Kurzmann is the grandson of David Kurzmann, a known entrepreneur and social activist in pre-war Krakow who was killed along with the Jewish Dom Sierot orphanage charges during deportation from the Krakow ghetto in October 1942. After the outbreak of war in September 1939, Marcel Kurzmann and his parents fled eastward and ended up in Buchach, from where he was then deported by the Soviets beyond the Urals. After his release from the camp, his family lived in Samarkand, in today's Uzbekistan, and returned to Poland in 1946. In 1950, Marcel Kurzmann emigrated to Israel, where he still lives today.
The meeting will be hosted by Grzegorz Siwor, Polish scholar, teacher, and author of the book "Enoszijut. The story of David Kurzmannie".
Bartosz Heksel, email@example.com; 12/656 56 25
With great sadness we say goodbye to Jan Jarczyk, a Polish-born jazz musician, Montreal pianist and McGill University professor who died on August 3rd 2014, after a battle with stomach cancer.
Jan Jarczyk was a very active member of the Polish community in Montreal. He will be remembered for his determination and dedication in propagating jazz and Polish music, for his involvement as the main organizer in the series of concerts "Jazzowe Zaduszki", that took place in the Polish Consulate in Montreal.
In April of 2012 he took part in a very important PJHF Gala Concert dedicated to the newly-created Museum of History of Polish Jews. That very evening Jan Jarczyk played, for the first time, a jazz composition specially created by him for that occasion, called "Klezmer goes Jazz".
He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
IT IS WITH A DEEP SADNESS THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO ANNOUNCE TO ALL OUR MEMBERS, THE PASSING OF ANNA (ALA) GIŻYCKI, THE LONG STANDING MEMBER AND SUPPORTER OF OUR FOUNDATION.
Board of Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation
by Mila Mesner
Ala was my friend. Her frienship was very special to me. She was a sincere, loving, caring friend. We worked together on many interesting projects. Her good sense of organization and her willingness to be of assistance was heartwarming. Most of all her good ideas and wise advice was priceless.
Visiting her was always a treat. Ringing the bell downstairs to her apartment I could hear a melodious voice "Witam już otwieram". There she was standing in the open door with a smile and outstretched arms in a warm greeting. Inside the table was already set for a tasty treat. The atmosphere of her home was peaceful, orderly uncluttered and aesthetically pleasing. It was good to be in her presence.
I will miss you Alu.
I only wish that when my time comes to cross the threshold to the other side - there will be Ala's voice telling me...
A memorable journey to Ukraine
by Mila Mesner
At the suggestion of Irena Belert, the former president of The Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation in Montreal, my wartime memoires, documented in my book "The Light from the Shadows", were first published by this organization in 2005.
The book covered the relatively happy period in my life in Zaleszczyki, (my home town in Poland, currently Ukraine referred to as Zalischyky), before the outbreak of the war on September the 1st, l939. I also detailed the tragic devastation and horror of the war in the years that followed. I was very pleased that many people found this book helpful and inspiring. I also discovered that it was also of special interest to some former residents, as well as the relatives of former residents of Zalischyky, who are currently spread out in various locations around the world.
This brought me to the realization that considering that Zalischyki is currently a Ukrainian town, with a handful of Poles and no Jews whatsoever, it is very likely that the new generation in that town are completely unaware that there were Jews, Poles and Ukrainians (each group constituted approximately 1/3 of the population before the war) who lived together in relative harmony until the war started. They are also very likely unaware that people like my family and me had to flee Zalischyky in 1940, as we no longer felt safe there. So, considering that I did not have any relatives or friends, nor any acquaintances left in Zalischyky, I decided to send a copy of my book to the attention of the mayor of Zalischyki. Two months later I received a response. The Mayor, Mr.Vladimir Beneviat who understands some English, read the book with great interest, and invited us (my husband and I) to come for a visit to Zalischyky.
As a result of this invitation Izio and I (age 88 and 84 respectively at that time), we undertook this arduous trip in June of 2008. I say arduous because it is not a place that is easily accessible. This trip involves long hours of travel by air, by train, bus or taxi on roads that are not always in the best of conditions.
Upon our arrival, we received an overwhelming welcome by Mr. Vladimir Beneviat and by the Director of the regional museum, Mr. Wasyl Olijnyk and his family.
During our many talks it was decided to have my book translated and published in Ukrainian so as to make it accessible especially to the new generation in that town. We also agreed to erect a monument on the unmarked mass grave of over 800 people, men and women of this town, of Jewish faith, who were savagely killed on November l4, l941.
As a result of this discussion, after three years of earnest cooperation and much good will, the book was published in the Ukrainian language, and received a very favorable review in the local paper. At the same time a very beautiful and dignified monument was erected and ready for an official unveiling.
April 27th was set for the official presentation of my book "The Light from the Shadows" in Ukrainian, and April 28th was set for the unveiling of the monument.
A group of us, consisting of four nieces, a nephew, as well as friends from England, United States, Austria and the Ukraine (Lviv), travelled to Zalischyky, to take part in this solemn event. In addition there were representatives from B'nai Brith organizations in Lviv and Tarnopol, as well as the Honorary Canadian Consul in Lviv Oksana Wynnyskyj The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Koffmansky from Chernovtsy.
On April 27th, we (my husband and I, my nieces and nephew, as well as a couple of friends from Austria) arrived in a mini bus accompanied by Mr. Wasyl Olijnyk and his family, to the school where the book launch was to occur. We were greeted by several students in colorful regional costumes, standing poised in two rows on either side of the entrance way to the school. The director of the school Svetlana Bodnar, as well as the mayor Mr. Vladimir Beneviat greeted me with flowers and warm embraces.
We were led to the school auditorium filled with students and teachers as well as visitors. On the stage there was an enlarged photo of the back cover of my book (including my photo) and a panoramic photo of Zalishchyky from many years ago.
The ceremony started with a young girl dressed in Ukrainian costume slowly approaching us with a gracious offer of a Paska (Ukrainian Easter bread) and salt on a beautifully embroidered towel. This gesture was followed by a number of dances and songs, poetry readings, speeches and as well as readings from my book.
I was moved to tears. I felt the outpouring of good will all around me. There were smiling faces everywhere. Everyone tried their best to show us that they appreciate me and my book and that they were grateful for my efforts.
That same afternoon our little group was invited to participate in an official ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. My husband and I felt honored to be asked to plant a tree in memory of the victims of this terrible event.
The next day, Thursday April 28th, was designated for the unveiling of the monument.
As we approached the monument we were gently beckoned by the beautiful sound of Lacrimosa Deis Irae (The day of tears and mourning) from Mozart's Requiem. It was a sunny day although a strong wind was blowing as the guests from Canada, United States, Austria, England, Oksana Wynnyckyj the honorary Canadian consul from Lviv, Gregory Pikman, the representative of B'nai Brith from Lviv and Tarnopol, Rabbi M. Koffmansky from Czernovitsy, representative of various institutions in Zalishchyky, a number of students, and towns people, the mayor, the director of the museum , my friend Olena Luczka from Lviv (with whom I shared the same school bench during my high school years) all gathered around the monument.
The mayor laid a wreath on the monument. The offering of additional bouquets from friends and the representatives of the B'nai Brith followed. Most poignantly a group of elderly Polish women, current residents of Zalischyki, brought lots of beautiful red tulips from their gardens, and lovingly spread them on the monument.
The Rabbi said a few words and a prayer and then intoned El Mole Rachmim. The Canadian Consul and various other representatives from various organizations had moving speeches, and than it was my turn. As I was speaking in English a young grandson of Wasyl Olejnik, stood beside me reading the translation in Ukrainian. This is what we said.
Prepared by Mila Mesner,
It has been almost three years since the four of us, the mayor of Zaleschiki Mr. Wolodimir Beneviat, the Director of the Regional Museum Wasyl Olijnyk, my husband Ijio Mesner, and I stood together in this field, discussing the importance and possibility of erecting a monument to commemorate the lives of over 800 people of this town, who were brutally murdered 70 years ago, on this very spot where we stand today.
My personal thanks and gratitude go first and foremost to Wasilij Olejnik without whom this project could not have gotten off the ground. Thank you my dear friend for your dedication, your thoughtfulness, and your kindness, not to speak of the countless hours that you have spent in realizing this project. I am also very grateful to Mr. Wolodimir Beneviat who paved the way for us to be able to stand here together to dedicate this stone to the memory of those martyrs.
I would like to begin with naming some of these people whose lives were cut short. I knew many of them personally. Some of them were young people who went to school with me : Sabina Stettner , Dziunka Schwebel, Dziunka Hackmayer, Rozia Wolkowicz and Ditta Wolkowicz, Tonka Meyer. Some were members of my family such as my cousins Mina Elberger, Pepka Wenkert, Berta Wenkert, Lola Wenkert and Fanka Wenkert, my aunt Frima Wenkert, and my uncle Jancio Elberger. There were among them people who served our town in many ways. There was Dr. Rosen, who helped heal the sick, the architect Morice Schwebel who designed beautiful buildings in our city. There were tradesmen like carpenter Holtzman who was my neighbor, as well as a roofer, a tinsmith, and a carriage driver whose names I do not remember. All these people had hopes and dreams like everyone else for themselves and their children.
I also want to tell you about the life in our town during the time I was growing up. The population of Z was almost evenly divided among the Ukrainians, Poles and Jews. There was little socializing or mixing between the Ukrainians and Poles, and even less between the Jews and non-Jews. Nevertheless all three groups had a lot in common.
First of all everybody loved the land we lived on. We loved the river Dniester, the high cliffs towering over the river, the blooming orchards, the chestnut trees, the black fertile soil, the wonderful summers full of music and life and the summer tourists bringing relative prosperity to our town. This was the land of our ancestors, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews, who for centuries lived here, worked here, produced goods, and died here.
All the people regardless of their culture or religion, shared the same fear of the unknown and the feeling of helplessness in the face of calamities. Everybody got up in the morning hoping for a good day without unexpected tragedies and unpleasant occurrences. Most people started the day with a prayer. The Ukrainnas with Otcze nasz, the Poles with Ojcze Nas, and the Jews with Moidi Any. Some crossed themselves three times, some only once, and some turned to the Eastern wall facing Jerusalem praying to the higher power we all called God. We all asked that our wishes be granted. We wanted protection from evil and misfortune. We prayed for good health, for ourselves and for our loved ones. We prayed for our daily bread, and a little bit of extra money to be able to give our children a good education and a secure trade. We all wanted our children to have a better life than their parents had. These prayers, rituals and practices were passed on from generation to generation, from parents to their children. Each and everyone thought that their way was the right way to reach the attention of the Almighty, who in the end was the only one who could protect us.
While our celebrations, and rituals were different, our sentiments were the same. We all shared much joy during the birth of a new baby, at weddings of family members and friends. We all feasted at family gatherings during various holidays. We also shared the sorrow and sadness that illness and death inevitably brought to all of us.
Unfortunately, life was and continues to be full of misfortunes and catastrophes. The situation in Germany after the First World War was catastrophic. Inflation, unemployment played havoc with the lives of people there. This became a fertile ground for the most evil and destructive form of government -Nazism. In times of difficulties the common practice is to look for scapegoats. The most frequent targets were the Jews. The victims were innocent people who could not defend themselves, such as the Jews who are buried right here. The Nazi doctrine promoted a culture of hatred that resulted in brutality, sadism and hideous crimes against humanity. Some people profited materially by robbing and stealing from those who were helpless. They benefitted from other people's misfortunes. Those who were humane and who cared for the people who were persecuted, were punished by death. Here in this earth, under our feet, are some of the victims of this monstrous regime.
Now I would like to say a few words to the young people who are here today. Our beautiful town of Z, is now inhabited by a new generation of people, far removed from all those horrors . It is up to you whom you will elect to govern you, what new progressive laws will be enacted, and what ethics and morals will guide you and your children. You are lucky to be born after the horror and depravity of those war years. The people who witnessed or committed these crimes are almost all gone. The world we live in and the future of this land is now in your hands. You are the future generation that will be deciding what is just, what is humane, and what kind of a society you will build.
I am so grateful that you came out today to stand together to affirm our joint humanity and to promise to each other that we will do individually and collectively everything we possibly can to eradicate hatred and prejudice in our communities, in our towns and in the world.
How do we do that you might ask? Think of the Golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This rule can serve as a guiding light that will point you in the right direction. And let this monument be a symbol, a reminder and a promise that NEVER AGAIN will Zalishschyky be a witness to such horrendous brutality.
When all the speeches were done, and just before the ceremony ended, a few drops of rain began to fall gently unto the monument. Rabbi Koffmansky finished his speech with a blessing and a comment that these raindrops are the tears of the people who are buried here. Some of us imagined that these tears were perhaps tears of gratitude from these martyrs, gratitude for remembering them.