Warsaw to Open First Jewish Community Center

Sukkot Town exhibition in Grzybowski Square, Warsaw; photo courtesy JDC
Sukkot Town exhibition in Grzybowski Square, Warsaw; photo courtesy JDC

The Jews of Warsaw will inaugurate the city’s first-ever modern Jewish Community Center in the Polish capital on October 27th. Funded by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, the Koret Foundation and many other donors, the new JCC is the second in the country and will serve as a hub for a vast array of Jewish cultural, educational, and community programs and activities, many taking place outside the JCC’s walls, for Warsaw’s multi-generational Jewish community.

Warsaw Deputy Mayor Wlodzimierz Paszynski, Israeli Ambassador Zvi Ravner, U.S. embassy representatives as well as Jewish community members – including the Beit Warsawa, Beit Polska, and Etz Chaim progressive congregations and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland – will also be in attendance. The dedication ceremony will include a jazz band, kosher food, an exhibition of photography of JCC Without Walls programs, and activity demonstrations by JCC members. Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich will hang the mezuzah.

The 3,000-square-foot free-standing building will serve as a center for Jewish activities that will take place in the space and also continue outside its walls in venues like museums, cafés and other alternative spaces. Located in one of Central Warsaw’s hippest neighborhoods, the JCC will offer a range of activities around the year including cooking classes, childcare, training programs, Jewish education, theater classes and a book club to the 900 preregistered members. Before its conversion, the building was a popular café.

The JCC will also be the central hub for the numerous “JCC Without Walls” programs that have become popular in Warsaw in the last number of years. These have included Jewish street festivals, artistic sukkah installations and cafe educational programs that draw newly engaged, curious, and fully involved Jews in Jewish life in the city. This formula – a small, centrally energized building that creates programming inside and on the street – addresses the new reality of Jewish engagement that requires various entry points for involvement.

Poland’s first JCC opened in Krakow in 2009 and quickly became a fixture in the life of the local community.

Today, Poland is home to an estimated 25,000 Jews who have access to synagogues of every Jewish denomination, community-wide Sabbath dinners, camping experiences, Jewish learning conferences, Jewish music and food, as well as youth clubs, urban holiday events, study groups and classes for those who have just discovered their Jewish roots. These activities and programs are the result of investments by local and international Jewish organizations, philanthropists, and advocates running the full, pluralistic gamut of religious movements and cultural options.