“I became involved in Jewish community life to a fairly significant extent starting about forty years ago,” Taube recalled. “And I became concerned that what I saw was rather defensive in nature. I thought some of the Jewish organizations and in fact their Jewish leadership were, I would say, eager to manifest their Jewishness but at the same time in a very narrow context. You might have a philanthropist who gave a significant gift to a Jewish organization, but maybe ninety-five percent of that individual’s gifts would go to non-Jewish organizations. And I started wondering, ‘Why?’ ”
The answer, according to Taube, involves the Holocaust, which “obscured Jewish thinking in the sense that it dominated our perception about ourselves, and what was lost in the process was the contribution that the Jewish people made to Western culture, a very important contribution.”
Following the devastation of the Holocaust, Poland is now a “very young country,” Taube said, stressing the importance of events such as the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow engaging a young demographic.
“Those aren’t 85 year olds dancing in the streets [at the Jewish Culture Festival]. [Young Poles] celebrate our Jewish events with us with great excitement and enthusiasm, and Poland emerged today as a pretty open society, free of a lot of the issues that it had to face before the war. As a matter of fact, most of the people who were facing those issues are dead.”
As the Jewish renaissance in Poland moves forward with efforts such as the culture festival and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Taube feels tolerance from non-Jews is crucial.
“Having a tolerant Christian population that understands Jewish issues and understands Jewish history and culture, and acknowledges that we’ve played a very fundamental role in helping to shape their value systems – I think all of those things bode well for moving toward a [Polish] society where there is less hatred,” he said.
“We need to teach people how to love one another and to stop looking for excuses to hate.”