The concert of the Bester Quartet formerly the Cracow Klezmer Band provided me with the opportunity to meet Aishling Roche from the Music Network in Dublin and to discuss some aspects of cultural cooperation between the local organisations in Dublin and Ireland and the Polish community and its audience.
We were both very surprised that the demand for Klezmer music from Poland turned out to be so big all over Ireland. We agreed that this vast interest is an expression of both the demand for Polish cultural events in Ireland and the lack of the regular opportunities to participate in them.
Bearing in mind that the awareness and knowledge about each other’s culture remains very limited we decided to use the concert as an opportunity to present some aspects of Poland and its connection with the Jewish tradition.
It seemed to be interesting but rather unknown here that probably about 70 percent of the world’s European Jews, or Ashkenazi, can trace their ancestry back to Poland — thanks to the 14th-century king, Casimir III, the Great, who drew Jewish settlers from across Europe with his vow to protect them as “people of the king.” Also the tragic fact that there are only 10,000 self-described Jews living today in the country of 39 million should not go unmentioned.
I also wanted to stress that a vast number of Polish people were happy to reject the former Communist construction of a mono-cultural Poland. They also dismiss the ideas of those who present nationalistic strains or espouse anti Semitic views. There are also many young people looking for inspiration in the culture and traditions of other nations that used to live within Polish borders.
The most famous homage to the Jewish tradition and its customs in Poland is the annual Festival of Jewish Culture. The most famous place associated with this tradition is Kazimierz in Cracow.
These two aspects the remains of the Jewish culture in Poland and Krakow as the place where this influence is still very strong became the focus of our exhibition.
The photographs and documents you see here are contributions from young Poles resident in Dublin who spent a lot of their time studying Jewish history, language and traditions in Poland. They are representative of a generation born in the 1970s and later, who began to look back to Polish multiculturalism and pay homage to the people who lived and contributed so much to the Polish culture.