14 May 2009

Poland: Archivist receives Sendler Award

The Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture (San Francisco, California) has given its annual award to Polish archivist Jan Jagielski who has spent his life trying to preserve Jewish monuments in Poland.

Chief archivist at Warsaw's Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute (JHI) in Warsaw, Jagielski was the first to begin to document and ultimately preserve Jewish monuments in Poland. He has co-authored numerous guidebooks about Warsaw’s Jewish pre-war Jewish history and leads the JHI conservation program.

Excerpts from the press release:

The award is granted to a non-Jewish Pole who has worked to preserve Jewish heritage in Poland, in memory of the late Irena Sendler, a “Righteous Gentile” who courageously saved over 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The award was announced on the first anniversary of Sendler’s passing and will be presented at the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow on July 1, 2009.

Jagielski, chief archivist at the newly renamed Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, was the first to initiate in the pre-1989 Communist era a project to document and ultimately preserve what remained of Jewish monuments in Poland. A non-Jewish Pole by origin, a chemical engineer by profession, his only motivation was his pain at seeing a part of his country's heritage go to ruin and oblivion. Acting alone and only in his personal capacity at first, he photographed neglected cemeteries and ruined synagogues and started to collect documentation on their former appearance and importance.

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, Jagielski has co-produced, with the City of Warsaw, excellent guidebooks to Warsaw's prewar Jewish history. Today, he leads a new major conservation program at Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute. Jan Jagielski remains one of Poland's top authorities on Jewish monuments and is a role model for all those who work to salvage and redeem the glory of Poland's Jewish legacy.
Tad Taube, Honorary Consul for the Republic of Poland and chairman of the Taube Foundation: “Jan Jagielski understands the importance of preserving Jewish history in Poland against the backdrop of today’s vibrant Jewish renaissance."

Since the fall of communism in 1989, Poland's Jewish community has come back to life. Synagogues and cemeteries are being built, and many Poles are connecting with previously unknown Jewish roots.

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