Jews in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Polish Republics: Discontinuity and Reinvention


Thursday, February 16, 2012 — 7:30PM

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles 90049

For much of contemporary history (1795-1918, 1939-1989), Poland – home to the world’s, and then Europe’s, largest Jewish population –  did not exist as an independent country. The two periods of foreign occupation separate what is known as the three Polish republics (even if before 1795 Poland was an electoral monarchy). In each republic the Jews perceived themselves, and were treated, very differently: as an indigenous social caste, as an alien ethno-religious minority, and as equal citizens. The republics, too, were fundamentally different countries, in terms of political system, demography and borders. Furthermore, developments in the periods of foreign occupation (the onset of modernity, the Shoah) were crucial for Polish Jewry. In this sense one can say that, as Poland periodically had to reinvent itself, so did Polish Jews: with fundamental consequences for Jewish identity and fate.

photo_gebert-100x150Konstanty Gebert is board member of the Taube Centre for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland.  Currently an international reporter and columnist at “Gazeta Wyborcza”, Poland’s biggest daily, he was a democratic opposition activist in the Seventies, when he was also an organizer of the Jewish Flying University, and an underground journalist in the Eighties under martial law. He is the founder of the Polish Jewish intellectual monthly Midrasz, and board member of Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany. He has taught in Poland, Israel and the US and has written ten books, e.g. on the Polish democratic transformation and on French policy toward Poland, the Yugoslav wars and the wars of Israel, Torah commentary and post-war Polish Jewry.  His essays have appeared in two dozen collective works in Poland and abroad, and his articles in newspapers around the world.

Mr. Gebert will be introduced by the Honorable Joanna Kozińska-Frybes, Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles.

This program is co-sponsored by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland and UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies and is free to all.



The JGSLA traveling library of Jewish genealogical books will be available for browsing starting at 7:00PM.  Due to uncertain traffic conditions on the 405, please leave enough time to arrive here.  Feel free to bring your own food to eat in the Ruby Gallery prior to the program’s start.  Plenty of free parking in the Skirball’s underground garage.

Click here for directions to the Skirball Center.


Due to construction on the 405 Freeway, Skirball exit lanes are sometimes closed unexpectedly.  We strongly suggest that you check the following site to see if there is notification about those closures on February 16th in the evening hours:

If so, you will have to detour and take the exit before Skirball and take Sepulveda Blvd. to the Skirball.  Please consult Google Maps (entering this address: 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049) to find the best alternate route.  Note also that there has been extremely heavy traffic in past months, often doubling the time it normally takes to get to the Skirball.  Please leave extra time to arrive and park.

Dinner & Gallery options:  consider bringing your own dinner to the Skirball where you can eat in the Ruby Gallery, socialize with others, read a book, catch up with email…in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by art!   You can also tour the Skirball’s exhibits (extra fee) on Thursday afternoon up until 5:00PM and then linger in the Ruby Gallery or outdoor areas until our program starts at 7:00PM.  Free wireless internet access is available so you can also bring your laptop and get work done.