This year, the European Days of Jewish Culture have a larger meaning in Krakow. The Jewish Community Center has always been very involved but with the war wages by Russia in Ukraine its role has evolved. Here’s our interview with Agnieszka Kocur-Smoleń, Director of Programming at the JCC of Krakow.
Jguideeurope : Can you tell us how the Jewish museum was created?
Agnieszka Kocur-Smoleń: The JCC was opened in 2008, during an official ceremony, by the Prince of Wales. The center provides social and educational services to the Jewish community of Krakow. But it has also different purposes. First to participate in the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow and foster Polish-Jewish relations. For such purposes, it was also important to provide a symbolic location, in the heart of the city’s historic Jewish quarter, Kazimierz.
Are there educational projects proposed by the museum and how is the city of Krakow participating in the sharing of Jewish culture?
We have a whole variety of educational projects, activities, events for the community as well as for people who would like to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Jewish world. We work with the local school, cooperate with universities, other non-profit organizations, museums, cultural centers. All of this in order to share Jewish culture broadly.
Are you participating in this year’s European Days of Jewish Culture ? If so, what will be organized at the museum ?
Each year we participate in the Jewish Culture Festival as the partner organization and we prepare the rich program of accompanying events. The Festival is supported by the city of Krakow. We have created a program of 38 events during the festival lasting 7 days – lectures, talks, city games, culinary show, sightseeing, dance workshops, genealogical consultations, debates, activities for kids and seniors, yiddish classes, Shabbat dinner, etc.
You have been involved in helping Ukranian refugees. Can you give us some details ?
The JCC and its partners have helped over 80 000 Ukranians in the first four months of the Russian attack, and continue doing so. Both refugees who have fled to Poland and Ukrainians on the other side of the border, not differentiating between the cultural and cultual affiliations. The JCC serves as a distribution point for food, medecine, toys, clothes… Over 12000 hotel nights have been provided. Summer camps are also organized for Ukrainian kids. A hotline has been set up to answer all types of questions and problems, and also a team of 12 psychologists. We have also partnered with a local university and an Israeli NGO to train 68 more psychologists to deal with such a crisis. And many more actions to diminish the suffering of the civil population.