Shalom Foundation is the Memory Guard and the place where tradition meets the contemporary, the place where Jewish culture enters into dialog with Polish culture. Its most important goal, implemented since the very beginning, i.e. since 1987, is to preserve from oblivion the rich heritage of the Yiddish culture.
The founder and the director of the Shalom Foundation is Gołda Tencer, an actress and director of Estera Rachel and Ida Kamińskie Jewish Theatre in Warsaw. The Foundation was co-developed by the graduates of the former Jewish school of I.L. Perec in Łódź. They all shared the love for Jewish tradition that they learnt at home.
Shalom Foundation organizes Yiddish courses, lectures, workshops, contests, educational contests, theatre and TV shows, exhibitions and festivals, it is also a publisher.
One of its biggest achievements is the exhibition „And I Still See Their Faces – Photography of Polish Jews” and the album of the same title. The exhibition was based on the collection of 9 thousand photographs sent as a response to the appeal announced by Gołda Tencer in 1994. The exhibition was shown in 49 cities across the world, featured by the most prestigious museums, including Yad Vashem in Israel, S. Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, in Costa Rica, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Paris, London, Barcelona, Brussels and Vilnus. The exhibition was also a huge success in New York, where it was shown for nearly a year in Yeshiva University Museum. An important part of the collection is the so called Kozienice collection that features 4.5 thousand photos that were printed of the glass plates which came from Chaim Berman photography studio in Kozienice. The collection “And I Still See Their Faces” was also digitalized and published on the website Polish Jews (www.zydzipolscy.pl). The foundation is planning a permanent exhibition and calls for the pictures to be sent continuously.
In 2005, the Foundation published the book “Memory. History of Polish Jews Before, During And After the Holocaust” written by Barbara Engelking, Jolanta Żyndul, Feliks Tych and Andrzej Żbikowski with scientific edition provided by Feliks Tych. The book is distributed free of charge to the libraries across Poland. An important educational project are the contests organized every 2 years since 1993 “On the Common Ground” addressed at the pupils of primary and middle schools and “History and Culture of Polish Jews” addressed at the students of upper secondary schools, whereas the laureates of the contests can enter selected majors offered by the Warsaw University and Jagiellonian University entry exam-free. Israel’s Ministry of Education invites the winners for a week-long stay in Israel.
The Foundation contributed to erecting in Falenica a monument commemorating 4 500 Jews – victims of Nazism. It also participated in the renovation of the Monument of Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw. With the Foundation’s efforts, there was a symbolic grave of the poet of Yiddish – Lejb Najdus – built on the Jewish cemetery at Okopowa Street in Warsaw.
Having been dedicated to promoting Korczak’s idea, the Foundation, together with the Polish Association of J. Korczak, was behind erecting the monument dedicated to the Old Doctor in Warsaw, which was unveiled on 1 June 2006 with the support of the Warsaw City Hall. The celebration was attended by President Lech Kaczyński and students from J. Korczak schools around Poland.
Shalom Foundation has been engaging in social activities, such as opening of the first since the war Jewish kindergarten in Warsaw and Sunday school for Jewish kids. It is also engaged in charity, supports initiatives dedicated to young people. The Foundation supports Irena Sendler schools because she is particularly close to its activity and philosophy.
On 27 January 2006, the Foundation organized the first Warsaw celebration of the International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day at the Ghetto Heroes Monument. The honorary patron of the celebration was the Mayor of the Capital City of Warsaw. Every year, on this day there are two other campaigns taking place: “The Memory Light” and “The Memorial Roll-Call” attended by many Warsaw citizens, and in addition to that, an empty ghost-tram travels through the former Warsaw Ghetto area symbolizing the absence of Jewish citizens of the city.
For many years, the Foundation has been participating in organizing celebration of Ghetto Uprising. Thanks to Gołda Tencer’s efforts, the 65th and the 70th anniversary was honored by the presence of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta and the “Azkara For Memory” – a symbolic celebration commemorating the fighters of the uprising – was conducted at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.
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, stagings, conferences and discussion panels attended by representatives of March generation.
More than 10 years ago, the Foundation has opened and has been running Yiddish Culture Center, which, as of 2010, has a new, permanent headquarters at 15 Andersa St. in Warsaw. It offers educational projects, lectures, workshops, film screenings and literary meetings. For 15 years, the YCC has been running year-long courses of Yiddish offered on three levels of proficiency. The Foundation has been also organizing Yiddish courses in Łódź.
In addition to the Yiddish Culture Center, 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 activity of the community of Polish Jews.
Since 2002, the Foundation has been organizing three-week International Summer Yiddish Language and Culture Seminars. The lessons 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 and Italy.
In March 2006, upon Foundation’s initiative, Third Age University was opened offering a block of classes and workshops dedicated to Jews. Students have the opportunity to learn about the secrets of the Jewish cuisine, cut-out or dance and learn Hebrew or Yiddish. They also visit places connected with the history of Polish Jews.
The publishing part of Foundation’s activity 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, anthology of memories “Jewish Children Accuse,” poetry book by Wisława Szymborska “Nic Darowane” 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 and Jewish culture. It includes the poem “Campo di fiori” translated into Jewish for the first time.
In 2010-2014, the Foundation has been publishing a quarterly dedicated to Jewish literature and art. “CWISZN – Between” featured critical and scientific essays dedicated to the broadly defined Yiddish studies as well as older and contemporary Yiddish literature translated into Polish, as well as selected texts in original version.
We, who have founded 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 protect the memory in order to preserve it in the chain of generations.