Shalom Foundation is a Guardian of Remembrance and a place where tradition meets contemporary times, where Jewish culture enters into dialogue with Polish culture. Its most important goal, for which it had been striving since the beginning of its existence, i.e., since 1987, is to save from oblivion the rich heritage of Yiddish culture. The founder of the Shalom Foundation is Gołda Tencer, an actress and director, since 2015 also the director of the Esther Rachel and Ida Kaminska Jewish Theatre in Warsaw. Over this time we have built many bridges connecting Polish and Jewish cultures and showing how much we have in common. The world of Polish Jews could not exist without Polish neighbours, and Jewish heritage has become an important element of Polish consciousness. The Foundation’s projects emphasize this coexistence, highlighting its most important elements.
The Foundation was co-created by graduates of the former Jewish I. L. Perec School in Łódź. They were joined by the love of Jewish tradition in which they grew up.
The Shalom Foundation organizes Yiddish language courses, lectures, workshops, educational competitions, theatre and television performances, art exhibitions and festivals, and also functions as a publishing house. Since 2004, The Foundation is the organizer of the ‘Singer’s Warsaw’ Jewish Culture Festival. This festival is one of the most important Polish festivals. It is one of the few events in the world that shows contemporary Jewish culture on such a large scale. This is a real celebration for lovers of one of the oldest and most interesting cultures in the world. For nine days in Warsaw you can learn about cultural traditions and new trends in Jewish art and music.
One of the greatest achievements of the Foundation is the And I Still See Their Faces.. – The photographs of Polish Jews exhibition and an album with the same title. The exhibition was created from a collection of 9,000 photos that were sent in response to an appeal made by Gołda Tencer in 1994. The exhibition was shown in 59 cities around the world in the most prestigious museums, including in Yad Vashem in Israel, S. Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, in Costa Rica, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Paris, London, Barcelona, Brussels and Vilnius. The exhibition was also very successful in New York, where it was shown at the Yeshiva University Museum for almost a year. An important part of the collection is the so-called Kozienice collection of 4,500 prints from glass plates, from the Chaim Berman’s photographic studio which operated in Kozienice until 1941. ‘And I still see their faces’ collection has also been digitized and made available on the Polish Jews website (www.zydzipolscy.pl). The Foundation plans a permanent exhibition of photos and calls for any other such photos to be sent to the Foundation.
An important educational project which is organized every two years, since 1993, are the competitions: ‘On the common land’ for primary school students and ‘History and culture of Polish Jews’ for high school students. Their winners have free admission to selected faculties at the University of Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. The Israeli Ministry of Education invites the winners for a one-week stay in Israel.
The Foundation contributed to the erection in Falenica of a monument in honour of 4,500 Jews – victims of Nazism. It also contributed to the renovation of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw. Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation, a symbolic tombstone of the Yiddish poet – Lejb Najdus – was built at the Jewish cemetery in Okopowa Street in Warsaw. The Foundation promotes Korczak’s ideas and together with the Polish J. Korczak Society (Polskie Stowarzyszenie im. Janusza Korczaka) brought about the erection of the Old Doctor statue in Warsaw, which with the support of the City of Warsaw was unveiled on June 1, 2006. The ceremony was attended by the President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, and pupils from all over Poland thought at schools bearing his name. The Shalom Foundation is involved in pro-social activities, such as the opening of the first Jewish kindergarten in Warsaw after the war and the Sunday school for Jewish children. It runs charitable activities, supports initiatives for the benefit of youth. Supports Irena Sendlerowa schools, funding school banners. Irena Sendlerowa is of a particular importance to the Foundation.
On January 27, 2006, for the first time the Foundation organized Warsaw anniversary of the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. The commemoration was held under the honourable patronage of president of the Capital City of Warsaw. Every year, on this day, the Light of Remembrance and the Remembrance Roll-Call campaigns are organised, in which many inhabitants of Warsaw take part, and the empty ghost-tram, symbolizing the absence of Jewish residents, runs through the area of the former Warsaw ghetto.
On April 19, 2018, on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we commemorated mothers – the Jewish mothers who, with great pain, were forced to give away their own children, as well as the Polish ones that helped these children by giving them shelter and a new identity. As a reminder of their suffering, a weeping willow was planted at Grzybowski Square – it bends over the fate of those women burdened by such an extremely difficult legacy.
For many years, the Foundation has been participating in organizing events commemorating Ghetto Uprising. Thanks to Gołda Tencer’s efforts, the 65th and the 70th anniversary was honoured by the presence of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta. The concerts director was Gołda Tencer. And at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, there was Azkara for Memory – a symbolic ceremony commemorating the fighters of the uprising.
Every year, the Foundation reminds us about the events of March’68 organizing meetings at the memory plaque, which was unveiled upon Foundation’s initiative in 1998 on Gdański Train Station as well as exhibitions, performances, conferences and discussion panels attended by representatives of March generation.
The Foundation established and has been running the Yiddish Culture Centre (YCC), which, as of 2010, has a new, permanent headquarters at 15 Andersa St. in Warsaw. It runs educational projects, lectures, workshops, film screenings and literary meetings. For 19 years, the YCC has been conducting year-long courses of Yiddish offered on three levels of proficiency, and of Hebrew at two levels of proficiency. The Foundation has been also organizing Yiddish courses in Łódź. In addition to the Yiddish Culture Centre, 15 Andersa St. also hosts the Jewish Open University, a project founded by the Foundation under the patronage of the University of Warsaw, which has been functioning since 2009. Students of the Jewish Open University can learn about the culture, art and social activities of the community of Polish Jews. Since 2002, the Foundation has been organizing three-week International Summer Courses of Yiddish Language and Culture. The classes are run by the outstanding specialists from Poland, Israel, France and Argentina. Since 2010, the seminar has been organized in Warsaw. It is attended by the enthusiasts of Yiddish language from around the world, coming from countries such as Japan, USA, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Germany, Italy, Canada and United Kingdom. In March 2006, upon Foundation’s initiative, the Third Age University was opened offering a block of classes and workshops on Jewish culture and customs. 200 attendants have the opportunity to learn the secrets of the Jewish cuisine, the art of cut-outs or dance as well as Hebrew and Yiddish. They also visit places connected with the history of Polish Jews.
The Foundation also collaborated with the National Library in creating the Digital Library of Yiddish Literature. The digital collection which currently contains over 200 works in Yiddish was created in 2007 as the first non-Polish collection in the Polona Digital National Library. The collection, available on the www.polona.pl website under the heading ‘Yiddish Literature’, is addressed to Yiddish culture lovers around the world. The collection includes works of nearly one hundred of the most important Yiddish authors – poets, prose writers, playwrights. Among them are pioneers of literary works in this language, including Salomon Ettinger, Mendele Mocher Sforim as well as later authors, such as Abraham Goldfaden, Icchok Leib Peretz or Sholem Aleichem and others. Due to the valid copyrights, the website could not include works of more recent writers, such as Isaac B. Singer.
The publishing activity of the Foundation’s has led to publishing, among others, the album And I Still See Their Faces, a collection of Sephardic poetry Poets of the Golden Age translated by A. Ziemny, a poem We, The Polish Jews by Julian Tuwim issued in four languages: Polish, English, Yiddish and Hebrew, an anthology of memories Jewish Children Accuse, poetry book by Wisława Szymborska Nothing Given featuring the first translations of her poems into Yiddish. As part of the celebration of the Year of Czesław Miłosz, the Foundation has published the book Dialogue of Poets dedicated to the relations between Czesław Miłosz and Yiddish poets as well as Jewish culture. It includes the poem Campo di Fiori translated into Jewish for the first time. The book published in 2005, Memory. The history of Polish Jews before, during and after the Holocaust by Barbara Engelking, Jolanta Żyndul, Feliks Tych and Andrzej Żbikowski, edited by Feliks Tych, has been provided free of charge to schools and libraries throughout Poland. In 2010-2014, the Foundation was publishing the CWISZN – Between quarterly dedicated to Jewish literature and art. It contained critical and scholarly essays in the field of broadly defined Yiddish studies as well as older and contemporary Yiddish literature translated into Polish, including as selected texts in original version.
We, who have established the Shalom Foundation, have decided to bring back to life the forgotten culture, the world of our ancestors, the world of Polish Jews. We want to salvage the memory in order to preserve it in the chain of generations.
Our projects help to raise awareness of the importance of Jewish heritage for Polish culture; they respond to and widen the interests of young Yiddish studies scholars and enthusiasts. Every year the number of recipients of our activities grows, which allows us to look into the future with hope.