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Centre for Jewish Culture: ul Meiselsa 17
Located just off "Plac Nowy" (literally in English; New Square, also known locally as Plac Zydowski; Jewish Square), the Centre for Jewish Culture is a fine example of the regeneration that took place in Kazimerz after the fall of communism.
Designed and built in the 1880s, it was used as a prayer house by the B'Nei Emuna Prayer and Benevolent society. It continued to be used for religious purposes up until the outbreak of World War II. During the war and afterwards it was used for business purposes, first as a carpentry workshop and then a warehouse. However, by the 1980s it was nothing more than a disused ruin.
In the late 1980s the building was renovated becoming the Judaica Foundation Centre for Jewish Culture thanks to funds being made available from the US Congress, provided through the Polish-American Joint Commission for Humanitarian Assistance in Warsaw, and also from the Municipality of Krakow, the Governor of Krakow Province, the Citizens' Committee for Restoration of Krakow's Monuments, and the General Conservator of Poland.
The centre's activities are wide and varied, from exhibitions, study programmes, conferences and seminars, to concerts and showings of documentaries and films.
The main aims of the centre are as follows:
- to preserve the Jewish heritage in the Kazimierz district of Krakow, and to perpetuate the memory of the centuries-long presence of the Jews in Poland, living side by side with Poles,
- to disseminate knowledge of the history and culture of Polish Jews among young people
- create a platform for Polish-Jewish dialogue
- to promote the values of an open civil society.
The building itself is a fantastic stopover for any tourist. The building has a cafe (a rooftop terrace that's open during the summer), and perhaps its best, or most unusual and interesting feature, is the antique shop in the basement which sells books, ceramics and lots more besides!
The centre's website is regularly updated and contains a list of monthly events which makes it essential reading for any tourist coming to Krakow.