Institute for Polish–Jewish Studies

Annual Report for the year 2006–2007


Jonathan Webber


The Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, an associated institute of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, this year published volume 19 of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, edited by Mieczysław Biskupski and Antony Polonsky, a volume focusing on ‘Polish–Jewish Relations in North America’. When Poles and Jews emigrated to North America and elsewhere, the relationship between them developed in new ways, and volume 19 of Polin presents important new research on the subject. It contains nineteen papers, covering a wide range of topics, including the representation of Christians and Jews in Polish immigrant fiction, conflicts between Poles and Jews in Chicago in the first three decades of the twentieth century, comparison of the Jewish and Polish press in Canada as regards coverage of the Holocaust, the re-envisioning of eastern Europe in American Jewish textbooks, and the ongoing Polish–Jewish debates over the Holocaust in Poland, especially the controversial events in Jedwabne in 1941. The 650-page volume also includes fifteen other papers and one obituary.

In December a one-day international conference, convened by Professor Jonathan Webber, was held to launch the volume, disseminate its chief findings, and to open up the discussion about Polish–Jewish relations and the aspirations and anxieties in Polish–Jewish dialogue, especially among young people. The conference, which was co-sponsored by the Polish Cultural Institute and held at the Polish Embassy in London, was opened by a presentation given by the chargé d’affaires of the Embassy (in the absence of the ambassador). Papers were then given by scholars from the United States, Poland, and Australia, as well as by a senior representative of the American Jewish Committee and by the Polish ambassador to the Jewish diaspora; and the conference concluded with the screening of five remarkable prewar short films about Jewish life in various Polish cities. The conference was full to capacity, and there was lively discussion throughout, particularly following the films.

Other events organized by the Institute during the year included a special lecture given by Professor Ludwik Finkelstein on ‘Jewish Religious Reform in Polish Lands’, held in February at Leo Baeck College, London, and a musical soirée and buffet supper, held in June at the Polish Embassy, consisting of works for violin and piano by both Polish and Jewish composers. The Institute also subsidized the translation into Polish of a biography of the Polish-born rabbi Chazkel Besser, an important figure active in Polish-Jewish dialogue.