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A cooperation between Jewish Records Indexing and Museum of the History of Polish Jews

The Signing Ceremony of the Agreement Between Jewish Records Indexing – Poland and Museum of the History of Polish Jews has just taken place the Polish Embassy in Ottawa.


S. Diamond, Ambassador Z. Kosiniak-Kamysz, P. Jassem   

The representatives of the two signing organizations as well as other guests, who are devoted to preserving the unique heritage of Polish Jews, were greeted by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Zenon Kosiniak-Kamysz. Following the Ambassador’s words of welcome, Mr. Peter Jassem, the Canadian representative of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, presented the project in a well illustrated presentation featuring the future galleries of the Museum slated to open in 2012, its philosophy and significance, and updated the audience with status of the construction work. Mr. Jassem said that ”in its importance The Museum of the History of Polish Jews will be comparable to Yad Vashem or the Holocaust Museum in Washington, but unlike the former two, it will tell the story of life. Holocaust, of course, will be presented in-depth and in a prominent way, but it will be shown in the contest of the seven main galleries depicting the rich history of a thousand year old, once the world's largest Jewish community that created rich civilization and was the centre of the Jewish Diaspora.


P. Jassem and S. Diamond    

Jassem also stressed the educational role of the institution saying that “450,000 visitors from Poland, Israel, United States, Europe, and elsewhere are expected each year” and added that “the Polish educational system is determined to make visits to the museum part of curriculum of every high school in Poland.”

Afterwards, the Executive Director of the Jewish Records Indexing – Poland, Stanley Diamond presented his project of a web-based, non-profit organization providing online searchable indices to the Jewish birth, marriage and death records of Poland. Founded by Diamond in 1995, the online searchable database now has indices to more than 4 million vital records from more than 500 towns in current and former areas of Poland. JRI-Poland database makes it possible for millions of Jews to reconstruct their families’ history as far back as the mid-18th century and sometimes earlier. Soon, each of JRI-Poland’s "Your Town" pages will have a link to the Museum's Virtual Shtetl pages for the same towns and vice versa. There will be more than 1000 linked towns and villages.

The Museum’s “Virtual Shtetl” website focuses on establishing a strong base in Poland by cultivating hundreds of localities where there is interest in the Jewish past. The Virtual Shtetl project is very collaborative. It will play an important role in the Museum’s long-term strategy of reaching out to the Polish population. The Virtual Shtetl is a natural ally of the Jewish genealogical world. It extends and expands family history research to the study of history of ancestral towns. The linkage of “Town” pages on each site will enable Jews whose families came from Polish towns and villages to connect to people living there today. They will have much to offer each other – access to local records sources, help with translation, identification of persons and locations, sharing documents, photographs, and documentation, making visits to places in Poland more rewarding, strengthening local preservation and commemoration efforts – and potentially very powerful experiences of coming to know each other through connections to a place and complicated past.


The Signing of the Agreement    

Following the presentation the official Signing Ceremony took place. Stanley Diamond, the Executive Director, signed the agreement on behalf of the Jewish Records Indexing – Poland and Peter Jassem represented the Director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Mr. Jerzy Halbersztadt.