Cultural anthropologist Erica Lehrer will lead a tour of the permanent exhibition of the Ethnographic Museum, focusing on the artefacts (as well as the absences) related to Jews and Jewish culture. What do these objects say about non-Jewish Polish conceptions of Jews and Jewishness? How should “folk” culture about and by Jews be displayed in this kind of museum?
The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, located in the heart of Kazimierz, is rarely included on the “map” of Jewish culture—but it should be! In ways visible and hidden, inspiring and distressing, the museum is shot through with evidence of Poland’s long and complicated relationship to its Jewish community. There are costumes of Jews, life-sized “figural beehives” in the shape of Hasidim, bobbling wooden figurines of Jews, and a scroll of the Book of Esther, as well as a story of Jews hiding in the museum during WWII and a former director who is recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. The ways Jews are and have been represented in Polish folk culture range from celebratory to ambiguous to malicious, and are very much a part of contemporary Polish politics.
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