Difficult Questions Volume Aims to Deepen Polish-Jewish Understanding
February 19, 2007 - New York - Difficult Questions in Polish-Jewish Dialogue, co-published by the American Jewish Committee and the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, is the latest initiative to deepen understanding between young American Jews and Poles. "It is our earnest hope that this unique volume will contribute to enhanced understanding and thereby strengthen the foundation of friendship and shared commitment between Poland and world Jewry for generations to come," said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris. "Since the restoration of democracy in Poland in 1989, a promising new era in ties between that country and the Jewish people has been established," said Harris. "AJC, which has long been recognized for its constructive approach to complex relationships across religious, ethnic and national boundaries, was among the very first Jewish groups to engage post-Communist Poland. In much of that work, our partner has been the Warsaw-based Forum for Dialogue Among the Nations," Harris continued. "Indeed, this book is an outgrowth of that valued partnership." Difficult Questions is an innovative approach to deepening understanding. As the editors note, the history that is learned in schools by young American and Israeli Jews is an entirely different version from what young Poles are taught. The chasm between the two narratives about the past is impossible to bridge without each side understanding the perspectives and concerns of the other. "The book responds to actual questions posed principally by young people interested in the link between Poland and world Jewry. The answers reflect a range of thought-provoking viewpoints and narratives," said Harris, the son of Holocaust survivors and a leading pioneer in advancing Polish-Jewish understanding. The questions and answers focus on Polish-Jewish relations in Poland before and during the Holocaust, memory and knowledge in Poland about the Holocaust, current issues in Polish-Jewish relations and in Polish-Israeli relations, the status of the Jewish community in Poland today, and what the future bodes for advancing Polish-Jewish relations. "Today, Poles and Jews living in Poland, under conditions of freedom and democracy, have the right to expect answers to many apparently straightforward questions about their history," writes Professor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, former foreign minister of Poland, in the book?s preface. The Difficult Questions project began with an analysis of more than a thousand questionnaires gathered from young Poles and Jews in Poland, the U.S., Israel, Canada and Australia who have participated in youth programs in Poland during the past fifteen years. Fifty of the most important and representative questions were chosen. Answers are provided by distinguished Jewish and Polish experts in history, sociology, Polish-Jewish relations and religion. Approximately three and a half million Jews lived in Poland on the eve of World War II, comprising ten percent of the country?s? population. Today, about 20,000 Jews live in Poland. Israel and Poland today enjoy strong diplomatic and commercial ties. With offices in Jerusalem and Warsaw, AJC has long played a central role in furthering Polish-Jewish relations. AJC was the first nongovernmental organization to publicly support the inclusion of Poland in the first round of NATO expansion in 1999, sponsors the National Polish American-Jewish American Council in the U.S., and partnered with the Polish government to build a fitting memorial at the site of the Belzec death camp. Difficult Questions was made possible with the support of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture; the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Memory, and Research; and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The book is available in English from AJC, in Polish from the Forum for Dialogue, and a Hebrew edition is expected later this year.
Ari M. Gordon Assistant Director Department of Interreligious Affairs American Jewish Committee 165 E56th St. New York, NY 10022 (212) 891-6768 (212) 751-4000 x266 www.ajc.org www.engagingamerica.org