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October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sigmund Rolat’

North American Director For Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

        The Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews, based in Warsaw, for a long time has had an office in New York City. With limited staff and resources, the chairman of the North American Council of the museum, Mr. Sigmund Rolat, has worked tirelessly to promote the museum through arranging events. Recently with the growth of activities both in Poland and in the U.S. it was decided to enlarge the North American Council staff. To that goal Robert Socolof has been appointed executive director of North American Council for the Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews.

 

Mr. Socolof brings with him many years of experience in the field of Jewish institutional work. He has worked for The Jewish Agency as community relations director and for the Israeli Consulate where he developed ahasbarah website, to counter negative press about Israel and Zionism.

 

During a trip to Poland he had realized how little he and most other people knew about the long history of Jews in Poland. He was intrigued when he first heard about the museum and jumped at the opportunity to work for it. The aim of the council is to raise awareness of the museum as well as to help fund it. “Many people have a misconception as to the workings of the museum,” Mr. Socolof said in a recent interview. They think that being in Poland and largely funded by the government there will be very little Jewish input in the museum board and content.

 

“There are 15 seats on the museum governing council,” Mr. Socolof explained. Three are for the Polish national government, three seats are for the City of Warsaw and six members come from the Jewish Historical Society in Warsaw. “This will guarantee that the content of the museum will be Jewish oriented and not apologist as many fear.”

 

 

 

 

(L-R): Mr. Robert Socolof, executive director of  the North American Council of the Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews; Mr. Sigmund Rolat, chairman of the NACMHPJ; Lydia Sarfati of the Shalom Foundation in Warsaw; and Mr. Michael Berkowitz, treasurer of the NACMHPJ.

 

On a recent trip to Poland Mr. Socolof met with the museum directors and staff and was impressed with what he saw as a dynamic and qualified staff that is working hard to build a museum, unique to the Jewish people.

 

Socolof commented, “Mr. Marion Turski, chairman of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and one of the prime movers of the Museum project is a storehouse of Jewish historic knowledge.”

 

The whole museum staff is very dedicated to bringing the complete story of nearly 1,000 years of Polish-Jewish relations to the public eye. The museum expects about 500,000 visitors annually, once it is completed in 2012. The museum’s target audience is not just American Jewish tourists but also a major learning vehicle for Polish and other European students.   

 

According to Socolof, “Often what tourists see about Jewish history in Poland is the Holocaust, and they never get to hear about the great Jewish communities that flourished for hundreds of years. The job of the Museum is to change that.

 

            “In the U.S. we will be working towards that goal as well as raising awareness of the Museum and raising money for the museum. One of the things that I have been asked to do is to gather material for the museum.

 

            “The museum will be unique in that it will not only have physical displays of items of Jewish interest but it will be, for the most part, a digital museum. The museum is creating a huge data base that guests will be able to explore. There is much material still to be discovered around the world especially in the U.S.”

 

In the short time that Mr. Socolof has taken over the reins of the North American Council he has been very active and is looking forward to see the success of his labors, the opening of the Museum in 2012.

 

       To contact the North American Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, http://mhpjnac.org.

North American Director For Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

        The Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews, based in Warsaw, for a long time has had an office in New York City. With limited staff and resources, the chairman of the North American Council of the museum, Mr. Sigmund Rolat, has worked tirelessly to promote the museum through arranging events. Recently with the growth of activities both in Poland and in the U.S. it was decided to enlarge the North American Council staff. To that goal Robert Socolof has been appointed executive director of North American Council for the Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews.

 

Mr. Socolof brings with him many years of experience in the field of Jewish institutional work. He has worked for The Jewish Agency as community relations director and for the Israeli Consulate where he developed ahasbarah website, to counter negative press about Israel and Zionism.

 

During a trip to Poland he had realized how little he and most other people knew about the long history of Jews in Poland. He was intrigued when he first heard about the museum and jumped at the opportunity to work for it. The aim of the council is to raise awareness of the museum as well as to help fund it. “Many people have a misconception as to the workings of the museum,” Mr. Socolof said in a recent interview. They think that being in Poland and largely funded by the government there will be very little Jewish input in the museum board and content.

 

“There are 15 seats on the museum governing council,” Mr. Socolof explained. Three are for the Polish national government, three seats are for the City of Warsaw and six members come from the Jewish Historical Society in Warsaw. “This will guarantee that the content of the museum will be Jewish oriented and not apologist as many fear.”

 

 

 

 

(L-R): Mr. Robert Socolof, executive director of  the North American Council of the Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews; Mr. Sigmund Rolat, chairman of the NACMHPJ; Lydia Sarfati of the Shalom Foundation in Warsaw; and Mr. Michael Berkowitz, treasurer of the NACMHPJ.

 

On a recent trip to Poland Mr. Socolof met with the museum directors and staff and was impressed with what he saw as a dynamic and qualified staff that is working hard to build a museum, unique to the Jewish people.

 

Socolof commented, “Mr. Marion Turski, chairman of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and one of the prime movers of the Museum project is a storehouse of Jewish historic knowledge.”

 

The whole museum staff is very dedicated to bringing the complete story of nearly 1,000 years of Polish-Jewish relations to the public eye. The museum expects about 500,000 visitors annually, once it is completed in 2012. The museum’s target audience is not just American Jewish tourists but also a major learning vehicle for Polish and other European students.   

 

According to Socolof, “Often what tourists see about Jewish history in Poland is the Holocaust, and they never get to hear about the great Jewish communities that flourished for hundreds of years. The job of the Museum is to change that.

 

            “In the U.S. we will be working towards that goal as well as raising awareness of the Museum and raising money for the museum. One of the things that I have been asked to do is to gather material for the museum.

 

            “The museum will be unique in that it will not only have physical displays of items of Jewish interest but it will be, for the most part, a digital museum. The museum is creating a huge data base that guests will be able to explore. There is much material still to be discovered around the world especially in the U.S.”

 

In the short time that Mr. Socolof has taken over the reins of the North American Council he has been very active and is looking forward to see the success of his labors, the opening of the Museum in 2012.

 

       To contact the North American Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, http://mhpjnac.org.

Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews Goes To Washington

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008


         On March 13 representatives of The Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews addressed the Helsinki Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe regarding the importance and aims of its institution.

 

        Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida, chairman of the Helsinki Commission, said that during a recent trip to Poland he had, “met the director of the museum and been introduced to the extraordinary vision of this extraordinary museum.”

 

         Mr. Hastings showed an appreciation for the need of the museum and asked poignant questions that were answered by the witnesses for the museum.

 

        Representing the museum at the hearing held at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill were: Under-Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, Ms. Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka; Ewa Wierzynska, deputy director of the museum, responsible for museum contacts with the Jewish community in the U.S. as well as museum promotion; and Mr. Sigmund Rolat, the chairman of the board of directors of the Museum’s North American Council.

 

         Each witness gave a five-minute address detailing the vision, mission, physical attributes of the proposed museum as well as the importance of such an institution to exist in Poland.

 

         Material that was submitted for the record at the hearing included plans of the building as well as the exhibits and how the budget will be used to build a unique museum using the latest technology to deliver the museum’s message to its visitors.

 

         The goal of the museum is to highlight the 1,000 years of Polish Jewish history, not just the six years of the Holocaust. “When A Jew conjures up an image of the old shtetl it invariably takes place in Poland but when he thinks of Polish -Jewish relations he thinks of the Shoah and anti-Semitism,” one participant in the hearing said. “Actually both are true; the goal of the museum is to show both sides.”

 

         But the target audience of the museum is not just Jews who come to visit Poland but, hopefully, a visit of the museum will become part of the curriculum of the school system in Poland. The goal is to educate young Poles about the Jewish heritage that had existed in Poland.

 

 


Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Museum’s North American Council, Mr. Sigmund Rolat, speaking at the hearing on Capitol Hill with Ewa Wierzynska and Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka behind him.

 

 

         Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, stated, “With a large number of Polish Americans and Jewish Americans of Polish origin, I believe that our country is also a stakeholder in the success of this endeavor This museum will serve as a living educational center that will contribute to combating anti-Semitism, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms.”

 

        Congressman Christopher H. Smith of N.J. said that he has been following the development of the museum project for several years now. He explained that it was because of the obvious importance of the museum that he introduced HR3320, which authorizes five million dollars in support for the museum. The bill has already passed in the House of Representatives and is up for consideration in the Senate.

 

         “Our contribution of five million dollars will be more then just a symbol of American commitment to religious freedom and it’s fight against anti-Semitism It will be a reminder of the historical ties that bind Polish Jews in the U.S. to their roots. I, for one, look forward to visiting the museum when it is completed and supporting what has been called a “restitution of Memory.”

 

         After the hearing was officially over there was a very friendly informal reception in the Capitol building, in which professional and personal ties were further cemented.  

Vandals Desecrate Cemetery

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

       Last week, Mr. Sigmund Rolat visited his birthplace in Poland, the city of Czestochowa. As he does on every trip, he took time out to pay his respects to the local Jewish cemetery. On this last trip, he made the horrible discovery that approximately 100 matzevot (gravestones) had been marked with anti-Semitic phrases and Nazi symbols. The markings included the letters SS, swastikas and the slogan “Jude Raus” (“Jews Out” written in German).

 

         Mr. Rolat was particularly upset because he has been working tirelessly for the past number of years to build an understanding between the Poles and the Jews. He has sponsored many events that enabled the local population to better understand, not just the Jewish experience, but also to realize that Jews were an important part of Polish society before the Shoah. Jews contributed in every way. They were involved in the arts, politics, agriculture, economics and commerce.

 

         One project of which Mr. Rolat is especially proud is connected with the local art school, where they created art through different mediums, inspired by Jewish themes.

 

         But the newest act of vandalism shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.

 

         Along with the work that Mr. Rolat has done with the townspeople, he also has done much to restore and maintain the cemetery in which the desecration took place. Just recently, at the beginning of the summer – as reported in this column – Mr. Rolat presided over a dedication of a new Jewish Community Center in the town.

 

         The day after the vandalism was discovered, 20 students from the local art school joined the chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and the mayor of Czestochowa, Tadeusz Wrona, in attempting to clean the heavy black paint from the tombstones. Using caustic chemicals and heavy gloves they made some progress but decided to stop and call in professionals, at the city’s expense, so as not to damage the stones.

 

         Schudrich praised the mayor and the students’ efforts as a show of support for Poland’s Jewish community, and for tolerance.

 

 


Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and Czestochowa Mayor Tadeusz Wrona cleaning one of the 100 tombstones desecrated by vandals in Czestochowa.

 

 

         “The fact is, there is anti-Semitism everywhere. But what is also important is the reaction of the rest of society,” Schudrich said. “Too often the rest of society tolerates these things. But in this case, the mayor and the young people didn’t sit at home and wait for someone else to come clean it up. They came out and made a physical, not just verbal, reaction.”

 

         Poland’s president also decried the recent desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Czestochowa.

 

         “This act of aggression is unusually shocking, especially because the Czestochowa graveyard belongs to one of the most impressive Jewish cemeteries in Poland,” Lech Kaczynski wrote in a letter to the head of the Jewish Cultural and Social Association of Czestochowa, Halina Wasilewicz.

 

         Kaczynski went on to say that the “. . . act of hate serves not only as an act of aggression against the place and respect for the dead, but against the heritage of Czestochowa, against the common history of its Polish and Jewish residents.”

 

         Local police are investigating the incident as a criminal act. “We have visited the crime scene and documented the damage. A tracker dog was used too. An investigation led by our criminal section is under way, so far unfortunately, with no results,” Officer Stanislawa Gruszczynska from the Czestochowa City Police Headquarters said.

 

         “It should also be noted,” Mr. Rolat said in a telephone interview that “The local Catholic cemetery was also desecrated about three weeks ago. In Czestochowa, which is an especially holy city for Catholic Poles, it was a very shocking event. We don’t know exactly when the desecration in the Jewish cemetery took place but both desecrations could have taken place at the same time and are only an act of hooliganism and not anti-Semitism.”

 

         But the use of Nazi words and symbols make the desecration especially disturbing.

Dedication Of Jewish Community Center

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

        Whenever I go to Poland it is for a specific occasion. This last trip was to cover the laying of the foundation stone of the Museum of Jewish History, the Krakow Jewish Cultural Festival and the weddings and bar mitzvah of my friends in Warsaw. In evidence of the growing maturity of the Jewish community in Poland, it seems that not a day goes by without an activity worthy of a story. There are exhibit openings, film festivals, semachot, recitals and visits by dignitaries. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about some of these events.

 

         Mr. Sigmund Rolat, of N.Y., has been a great supporter of Jewish causes in Poland for many years. He has contributed generously to the Jewish Festival in Krakow, as well as the museum in Warsaw, but he reserves his greatest efforts for his hometown, Czestochowa. Over the years he has cleaned up the cemetery, which had been described as a jungle, and made great strides in building bridges between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities through supporting cultural projects inspired by Jewish rituals and symbols.

 

         On June 28, once again, he was at the forefront of Jewish activity in his hometown. He brought in two busloads of visitors to Czestochowa for the dedication of a Jewish Community Center. Most were in Poland for either the museum event or the festival.     Present were Mr. Sigmund Rolat; Chief Rabbi Of Poland Rabbi Michael Schudrich; Mr. Tad Taube of the Taube Family Foundation; Theodore Bikel; noted professor Michael Berenbaum; along with many local officials including the city mayor.

 

 



Mr. Sigmund Rolat speaking to the people gathered at the JCC in Czestochowa. (L-R) Mr. Soigmund Rolat; Mr. Tad Taube; Mayor of Czestochowa Tadeusz Wrona; Israeli Ambassador to Poland David Peleg; and Theodore Bikel.


 


 

         We began the day with an hour-and-a-half ride from Krakow, which provided the participants time to schmooze together. On arrival in Czestochowa we drove around as Mr. Rolat led a tour of the former Jewish sites in the city. At the JCC Rabbi Michael Schudrich affixed a mezuzah to the door, and Theodore Bikel treated the group to an impromptu mini-concert.

 

         After the ceremony the group ate lunch, kosher food from Warsaw provided by  Rabbi Schudrich. Afterwards, those interested visited the famous Jasna Gora sanctuary, while others chose a more detailed tour of the city.

 

         The Yiddish Theater of Warsaw came to Czestochowa and gave a fantastic performance, a medley of Yiddish and Polish songs that awakened genetic memories, and even songs we couldn’t understand, sounded like long-forgotten lullabies.

 

 



Rabbi Michael Schudrich and Mr. Sigmund Rolat, affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost of the JCC in Czestochowa.


 

 

         The final event of the day was a buffet at the atelier of one of Poland’s most famous contemporary artists, Tomasz Setowski.

 

         While the JCC contains little Jewish material, the few remaining Jews in Czestochowa now have a place to gather, a place they can call their own and develop as needed. A big Yashar Koach to Mr. Rolat for all his continuing efforts on behalf of  the Jewish Community in Czestochowa and Poland in general.

Sigmund Rolat And Wayne Zuckerman Honored At YU Museum

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

        The exhibit “And I Still See Their Faces,” at the Yeshiva University Museum in the Jewish History Center in N.Y., was the site of a gala reception honoring two of Polish Jewry’s greatest friends, Mr. Sigmund Rolat and Wayne Zuckerman.

 

         The exhibit was the perfect setting for the reception. Large pictures of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Poland hung on the walls and from the ceilings showing life as it should be. Families going about their lives, children at play, portraits and street scenes.

 

         Mr. Sigmund Rolat has been a major benefactor to the Jewish community in Poland today helping with many programs throughout the country. Michael Berkowicz said of Mr. Rolat, “He is a guiding light for the Museum of the History of Jews in Poland.” After many years of planning, the project will finally have a groundbreaking ceremony on June 26.

 

         He also was instrumental in bringing the exhibit, “And I Still See Their Faces,” to N.Y.

 

         Closest to his heart though is his birthplace, Czestochowa. Mr. Rolat has undertaken the task of restoring the cemetery as well as working with the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants. Last year he led a group of more than 200 people back to Czestochowa where they toured the old Jewish community sites as well as places relating to the Shoah. There was a ceremony at the cemetery, as well as a march from the gathering point to the Umschlagplatz, the train platform from which the Jews of Czestochowa were sent to their deaths at Treblinka.

 

         Mr. Rolat also aims for the future. He believes that education breeds understanding and has created a program, “Inspired by Jewish Culture,” a fine arts program for Polish high school students to create artwork inspired by Jewish themes. The program, initiated in Czestochowa, has spread through the country with great success.

 


Mr. Sigmund Rolat leading a tour of the Hasag factory during the Sukkot gathering of The World Society of Czestochowa Jews.

 

         Mr. Rolat’s affiliations are many and diverse. He sits on the board of Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture; the American Society for Jewish Heritage in Poland; the Krakow Jewish Festival; the Shalom Foundation; the forum for Dialogue Among The Nations; Ben Gurion University of the Negev; The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies; and the Florence and Chafetz National Advisory Board.

 

         Also honored was Wayne Zuckerman, whose philanthropic interests and activities focus on Israel and Jewish community issues. He is a member of advisory boards of many local and national organizations including: Israel Bonds; United Jewish Appeal; MetroWest, New Jersey; The Florence and Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University; and the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington D.C.

 

         The evening was a great success. People came from three continents to pay homage to Mr. Rolat and Mr. Zuckerman. Rabbi Joseph Polal came from Boston where he has been director of Hillel at Boston University for many years. The Hillel House was the first American venue for the exhibit and has been in the forefront of Holocaust education.

 

         Ambassador Shevach Weiss came from Israel. He is the former speaker of Knesset; as well as Israel ambassador to Poland; and president of Yad Vashem. Marian Turski came from Poland where he is the chairman of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and editor of the Politika magazine in Poland. Michael Berkowicz MC’d the evening. He is the chairman of the N.Y. region for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, North America and is a founding member of the Friends of the Krakow Jewish Festival.

 

         Golda Tencer, the curator of the exhibit and founder of the Shalom Foundation, also attended. She was responsible for the amazing collection of photos that had been hidden, scattered among non-Jews but now brought back to light to be seen by the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/sigmund-rolat-and-wayne-zuckerman-honored-at-yu-museum/2007/04/02/

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