Foundation creates Jewish open university in Poland

14th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

The new university will offer classes in Jewish literature, culture, music and philosophy as a way of bolstering Poland’s Jewish history and community.

Warsaw -- A foundation dedicated to reviving Jewish traditions in Poland, which were all but wiped out in the Holocaust, said Friday that it was launching a wide-ranging university programme.

The Shalom Foundation said it was taking enrolments for its "Jewish Open University" in Warsaw, where classes in Jewish literature, culture, music and philosophy are to start in January.

Around 30 people have already signed up for the part-time study programme, ranging from students to adults who have already completed their formal education, it said.

The programme -- lasting two semesters and with up to 60 places -- is also backed by Warsaw University, it added.

The Polish-American-Israeli Sahlom Foundation was set up in 1988 by former students of a Jewish school in the central Polish city of Lodz, aiming to preserve the largely-lost culture of Europe's former Jewish heartland.

Pre-war Poland was home to around 3.5 million Jews -- then Europe's largest Jewish community. After the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany exterminated six million Jews from across occupied Europe, Poland's Jewish population numbered just 280,000.

Many emigrated to the United States or Israel after the war or during waves of anti-Semitism under Poland's communist regime in the 1950s and 1960s.

An estimated 3,500 to 15,000 Jews live in Poland today, out of a population of 38 million, more than 90 percent of whom are Catholic.

But it is near-impossible to say how many Poles have at least some Jewish ancestry -- Jews first emigrated here from western Europe to escape 11th century pogroms -- and many are rediscovering their roots.

Six years ago, the Shalom Foundation launched the highly-popular Isaac Bashevis Singer Jewish festival in Warsaw, named after the Polish-Jewish 1978 Nobel literature prize winner who died in 1991.


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