The Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow
The Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow was established in October 2012, following a decision of the university rector (March 13, 2012). It is the result of the successful development of the Department of Jewish Studies, which had functioned since 2000 as an autonomous unit of the Faculty of History. The Department itself was the effect of the transformation of the Research Centre for Jewish History and Culture in Poland (established in 1986 and led by Prof. Józef Andrzej Gierowski). Prof. Edward Dąbrowa was the director of the Department of Jewish Studies in the years 2000-2012, and in the years 2012-16 he was the director of the Institute of Jewish Studies. Since 2016 the director of the Institute is prof. Michał Galas.
The institutional change happened at the beginning of the 2012/2013 academic year, when the Institute introduced a new and unique programme in Jewish Studies named Judaistyka, approved by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The new programme is offered at both BA and MA level, and graduates can continue their studies.
The Institute of Jewish Studies is divided into three departments:
- Department of Jewish Culture
- Department of the History of the Jews
- Department of the History of Judaism and Jewish Languages.
The Institute of Jewish Studies is located in the centre of the Kazimierz district, the old Jewish quarter of Krakow. This location – the university building known as Collegium Kazimierzowskie (19 Józefa Street) – has been used since March 2010, when the Department of Jewish Studies moved from its address at 12 Batorego Street.
The beginning of Jewish studies at the Jagiellonian University dates back to 1986, when the Research Centre for Jewish History and Culture in Poland was formally established by the vote of the JU’s Senate. The Centre’s work was inaugurated in September 1986 with the international conference The Autonomy of the Jews in Noble Poland, the first such meeting of so many experts in Jewish studies from France, Israel, Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom since the end of the Second World War.
The goals of the new academic institution were announced in a speech given by Jagiellonian University Rector Prof. Józef Andrzej Gierowski, who became the head of the Centre then. He said that “a lot of bias and misunderstanding have been built around the history of Jews in Poland. This is also caused by the fact that not enough research has been done in this field. And that’s why it is time for proper and honest research on the past of the Jewish community and to create a history of mutual interaction without prejudices and emotions.”
The Research Centre for Jewish History and Culture in Poland organised interdisciplinary projects and conferences, among them Polish Jews until 1939 in Poland’s and World Historiography (1991); and The Future of Auschwitz (1992). The Centre also co-organised the conferences Jews in Contemporary Polish Research (1995 and 1998); and Jewish Spirituality in Poland (1999). The tradition of such work was continued by the Department of Jewish Studies. The Department co-organised the conference 200 years of the New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow (2004), and a year later the International Conference 700 Years of Jews in Krakow as well as the session On the Map of Shoah – Krakow and Auschwitz.
The academic work at the Research Centre for Jewish History and Culture in Poland was divided into three sections: Bibliography and Jewish Book Studies, Documentation, Sociology and Ethnography. Their main goals were: creating a bibliography of Polish Judaica, research in Polish archives on sources concerning Jewish history, and collecting memories and testimonies about the Jews in Poland. The results of the research were published, in addition to other publications, in the series Studia Polono-Judaica, which had three subdivisions: Series Bibliographica, Series Fontium, Series Librorum Congressus. At the time of the Department of Jewish Studies, the title of the series was changed to Studia Judaica Cracoviensia. The titles of the subdivisions remained the same, and two more were added to the already existing ones: Series Dissertationum and Series Variorum.
The academic annual Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia. Studies in Jewish History, Culture and Religion has been published since 2002, first by the Department, and now by the Institute of Jewish Studies. SJC is intended to be a platform for international exchange of ideas and presentation of new research in the field of Jewish studies. The articles in Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia are published in three European languages: English, German or French.
A list of publications by the Institute of Jewish Studies and its faculty members is available online – at the Institute’s website: http://www.judaistyka.uj.edu.pl.
The activities of the Institute of Jewish Studies
The goals of the Institute of Jewish Studies (likewise in the past the Research Centre for Jewish History and Culture in Poland and the Department of Jewish Studies) are: cataloguing and publishing the sources of the Jewish history and culture in Poland; organising and leading interdisciplinary research on various aspects of Jewish culture (religion, Jewish languages, literature, art and architecture, sociology and ethnology); and publication of retrospective and contemporary bibliography of Polish publications in the field of Jewish studies. Holocaust and post-Holocaust studies as well as research on anti-Semitism have become an important part of the Institute’s work. A significant role of the faculty is to educate new researchers and teachers to develop Jewish studies, but also to promote Polish-Jewish and Christian-Jewish dialogue.
The Institute of Jewish Studies is the only such institute in Poland pioneering the new academic discipline that in Polish is named judaistyka (Jewish studies, Judaic studies), and offering a whole range of programmes for Polish and international students. Starting as early as the 2000/2001 academic year, the Institute offered a regular five-year MA programme, later changed to a BA (3 years) and MA (2 years) curriculum in Jewish studies.
The programme of Jewish studies at the Jagiellonian University covers the history of Jews from biblical times till today, with a special interest in the history of the Jews in the Diaspora; the history of Judaism, Jewish thought, Jewish culture and literature, and obligatory courses in Yiddish and Modern Hebrew. Currently there are over 150 undergraduate and graduate students at the Institute of Jewish Studies. The faculties at the Institute of Jewish Studies also supervise almost twenty PhD students.
The Institute offers courses in Polish and English, as well as accepting students from abroad as part of various international cooperation programmes and scholarships. Beside BA and MA majors in Jewish studies, the Institute offers professional training for local teachers, museum curators, tourist guides and all BA and MA graduates who want to expand their knowledge in the field of Jewish history, cultural heritage and literature. The Institute’s scholars also offer a variety of individual lectures and presentation series for international programmes – both during the academic year and as part of summer schools and projects.
The Institute of Jewish Studies cooperates with many universities and institutions in Poland and abroad. Among local institutions, the Institute has special arrangements of educational and research cooperation with the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, Galicia Jewish Museum, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Jewish Community in Krakow and Jewish Community Center (JCC Krakow).
In terms of international cooperation, the Institute of Jewish Studies is proud of academic relations with Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, University College London and the European Association of Jewish Studies, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw, the US Consulate General in Krakow and the Association of Krakovians in Israel. The Institute also has several bilateral cooperation agreements with European universities within the Erasmus programme.
Thanks to Polish and international scholarships, the academic staff and students of the Institute of Jewish Studies are able to study and do their research at various European, Israeli and American universities – following both academic cooperation agreements and programmes such as Fulbright or Erasmus.