About JCC Krakow
JCC Krakow was opened in April 2008 by His Royal Highness King Charles and now serves as the focal point for the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow. Located in the heart of the city’s Jewish district of Kazimierz, the JCC provides Krakow’s growing Jewish community with a space to meet, learn, and share ideas in a warm, welcoming environment. We currently have over 850 Jewish members as well as over 75 volunteers, most of whom are not Jewish!
Since February 24, 2022, JCC Krakow has become a key provider of services, a strategic partner, and a convener, having directly helped and supported over 220,000 Ukrainians since the invasion began. We are operating in Krakow and inside Ukraine and do not differentiate between Jews and non-Jews when providing support. Over 98% of Ukrainians who have received support from JCC Krakow are non-Jews. Our humanitarian aid work has only been possible with the continued generous support of the global Jewish community.
This Past Year in Numbers
new Ukrainian-Jewish members
Ukrainian refugees supported
participants at events
tons of goods distributed
As I reflect on the past year at the JCC, I am awestruck by the care and compassion of Jews around the world - all of you - and your incredible ability to help others. Thanks to your generous donations, we were able to respond immediately to the needs of Ukrainians when the Russian invasion began. The bombings began on February 24th, 2022 and by February 25th, we were handing out food and welcoming refugees into our building. Since then, we have helped over 220,000 Ukrainian refugees, 98% of whom are not Jewish – ensuring they were fed, housed and cared for. The need is immense and only growing as I write this. We know our job is not done yet and will continue to help Ukrainian refugees for the rest of 2023. I am filled with gratitude to each of you for making it possible for us to help so many.
It was only 80 years ago, in living memory, when the Jewish people in this part of the world were the Other and were targeted for destruction. Then, as a different dictator carried out his fiendish plan, the world remained mostly silent. This silence, and indifference to Jewish suffering, led to the death of 6 million of our people. We, as Jews and as human beings, cannot be silent while Ukrainians suffer. That is why the JCC, with your support, has made the decision to do all we can for the refugees: greeting them with warm clothing, food, diapers, a place to live, psychological support, day care, legal advice, medical treatment, and whatever else they may need.
This past year has not only been focused on our Ukraine response efforts. We have also continued to rebuild our Jewish community as we resumed in-person programming, welcoming over 200 new Jewish members (most of them Ukrainian) to the JCC. All of this could not have been possible without our amazing JCC team. We had to hire 40 additional people this past year, in order to handle it all!
These are just a few of the many accomplishments we have had in the past year which would not have been possible without all of your generous support. Thank you again to each and every one of you for all you have already done for the Ukrainian people and the Jewish people of Krakow. I cannot wait to see what we will continue to do!
- Jonathan Ornstein
CEO, JCC Krakow
Our Ukraine response
JCC Krakow is a key provider of services, a strategic partner, and a convener, having directly helped and supported over 220,000 Ukrainians since the Russian invasion began. We are operating in Krakow and inside Ukraine and do not differentiate between Jews and non-Jews when providing support. Over 98% of Ukrainians who have received support from JCC Krakow are non-Jews. We have provided over 10 million dollars worth of direct support to Ukraine thus far. Our JCC continues to function 7 days a week as a distribution point for food, medicine, hygienic supplies, toys, and clothing that we have received and purchased. 300-400 Ukrainians a day come in to take what they need and are met by our Ukrainian speakers who welcome them and offer assistance. Over 200,000 Ukrainians have received over 350 tons of necessary supplies in our building. Additionally, we offer 200 free meals a day in our JCC and are helping to feed 800 people a day overall.
We house, on average, 300 Ukrainians (down from 450), Jews and non-Jews, in apartments we are renting in Krakow. We provide them with psychosocial support and cash assistance. We have secured an entire residential estate outside of Krakow and are housing 90 Ukrainian women and children there and providing a full array of social services. Over 31,000 hotel room nights have been provided. We have hired 40 new staff members: 31 full time and 9 part time, including 28 Ukrainian refugees, to work on our Ukrainian humanitarian response. We also worked with over 150 international volunteers who came to Krakow to support us in our work for Ukraine.
Meet Kateryna, a Ukrainian Refugee We Helped
JCC Krakow’s primary goal is to establish an open, pluralistic, and inclusive community that welcomes all and provides innovative, quality programming at the highest level in a warm, optimistic, and lively atmosphere. We strive to serve as a welcoming home for the local Jewish community. For many of our 850+ members, we are the main provider of Jewish services.
In the past year, the JCC has grown by over 150 Ukrainian-Jewish members who joined our community after escaping the war and found a safe home in Krakow. To better serve these new members, we hired a Ukrainian membership coordinator and are providing Ukrainian translations for many of our community events. Our focus has been on integrating the Ukrainian-Jewish and Polish-Jewish communities, and providing enriching Jewish programming and support for all of our members.
Our Key Community Programs
We aim to be the place where the local Jewish community feels most at home by providing a nurturing atmosphere and a broad selection of programs to meet people where they are. In this way, we also seek to attract new members, many of whom only recently found out about their Jewish roots or have not yet had an opportunity to engage with their Jewish heritage. We host, on average, 54 events at the JCC every month including educational workshops, Jewish lifecycle events, and social mixers.
JCC Krakow’s BBYO Tapuzim Club is designed to enrich the lives of our Jewish teens by providing them with a space to embrace and explore their identity. The BBYO curriculum includes basic Hebrew education, Jewish culture, traditions, history, and holidays. Since January of 2022, we have hosted 65 BBYO Tapuzim events, including an anti-discrimination workshop, lectures around climate change, a board games evening and even an Italian cultural event in June led by our BBYO members from Italy with culinary and education sessions.
The Bagel Club for young families has meetings centered around Jewish education and culture, with different programs offered for young children, teens, and parents. These meetings allow the children and teens to learn about Jewish culture and traditions. The club also allows the adults who may not have grown up with Jewish traditions to learn about them in a welcoming environment with others who have similar experiences. Since January of 2022, we have hosted over 30 meetings of the Bagel Club, including art workshops for Tu B’Shvat, a meeting with the Head of Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw, crocheting workshops to make kippahs, and a Rosh Hashanah trip to an apiary.
The JCC Krakow Senior Club serves 250+ senior members, including 50 Holocaust survivors. After the Russian invasion on Ukraine began, we welcomed four Ukrainian Holocaust survivors to our community. We provide many services to our seniors including direct welfare aid to help cover heating and medical costs, food and care package deliveries, as well as transportation to and from our building. We also offer lectures, workshops, and mental and physical health and wellness classes. Overall, we hosted over 250 different programs for our seniors in the past year.
FRAJDA, which means “joy” in Polish and Yiddish, was opened in 2017 and is the first Jewish community preschool in Krakow after World War II. We have had the privilege of welcoming over 70 students to our school over the past 5 years. Our students receive a comprehensive Jewish education, which includes learning about and celebrating every Jewish holiday. This past year was even more special as, in addition to our Polish-Jewish students, we also welcomed Ukrainian-Jewish students to our school.
JCC Krakow’s Hillel GIMEL Student Club aims to create a community for Jewish university students residing in Krakow. Many of the members of Hillel GIMEL discovered they have Jewish heritage as teenagers or upon beginning university, and therefore have not had the opportunity to fully experience Jewish culture and community. Since January of 2022, Hillel has hosted 48 different events throughout the year to engage Jewish students, including various themed Shabbats (Sephardic, Italian, Ukrainian), pierogi workshops, and women empowerment events in partnership with the Achayot Club. They also attended a "Shabbaton" retreat weekend with all of Hillel Poland and sent not only the largest delegation, but the largest Krakow has ever sent, with over 30 participants.
Achayot, meaning “sisters” in Hebrew, is a group that focuses on topics that primarily affect women, including discussions on modern feminism, consent, and reproductive rights in Poland. Achayot encourages members to suggest ideas, lead discussions, and assist in creating programs that are of interest. A few of the programs Achajot has hosted in the past year includes a meeting with AZADI (an organization whose mission revolves around trauma recovery and care), craft workshops, and visiting an exhibit “POWERBANK” focused on powerful women.
RIDE FOR THE LIVING
Ride For The Living (RFTL) is a comprehensive fitness experience commemorating the Holocaust and honoring the rebirth of the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland. RFTL combines Holocaust education with a meaningful 60-mile bike ride from the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau to JCC Krakow, giving participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in Krakow’s Jewish past, present, and future, either in-person during the 4-day event or by participating remotely from home in the Ride For The Living Global Challenge.
After a two-year-long pandemic break, we were finally able to organize Ride For The Living in person once again. The 2022 RFTL had 200 participants from 6 different countries, who biked 60 miles from Auschwitz-Birkenau to JCC Krakow. One of the participants was Bernard Offen, a Holocaust survivor who survived 5 concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Thanks to our participants, we raised a total of $394,240 to support our community and the Ukrainian refugees.
During the 2022 edition of RFTL, we decided to organize one more Ride - a bicycle ride from the Ukrainian border to Krakow. A group of six cyclists, four representatives of the Bartali - Youth in Movement group from Israel and two experienced RFTL marshals, covered the route of 330 km (207 miles) over two days.
2022 Ride For The Living in Numbers
by RFTL participants
miles cycled from Polish-Ukrainian border to Krakow
10 years old
raised to support
Jewish life in Krakow
93 years old
Watch our 2023 RFTL Promo Video
Holocaust Survivor Day
On March 6, 2021, Michael Berenbaum and Jonathan Ornstein published an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post calling for the creation of a "Holocaust Survivor Day." In their words, "Holocaust survivors deserve a day of joy; a day of celebration. Not a day to share with condemnation of the Nazis, but a day to celebrate the lives they built in response to the Holocaust. Survivors represent the best in all of us, the best of the human spirit. They are our treasure and our light and we must shine that light into every dark corner of our world. We call on the world to join us and celebrate the inaugural Holocaust Survivor Day."
In 2022, we celebrated the second annual Holocaust Survivor Day (HSD) in Krakow by hosting a dinner for our survivors. Israel hosted the central events of HSD with two live events in Israel with over 1,800 Holocaust survivors participating. JCC Krakow CEO, Jonathan Ornstein, spoke at both events. The events were attended by leading Israeli figures, including the Foreign Minister and Minister of the Diaspora Affairs, and were live-streamed around the world.
We look forward to celebrating Holocaust Survivor Day this year, on June 4th.
Expenditure & Revenue
We provide our 850+ Jewish members with social, educational, welfare, and other services. Through our efforts, Holocaust survivors, along with their children and grandchildren, are forging a renewed and vibrant Jewish community in Krakow. Many of our members first learn about their Jewish roots as teens or young adults and enjoy the support of a community ready to welcome and teach them about their Jewish heritage.
We are also a key provider of services for the Ukrainian community, operating in Krakow and inside Ukraine. Since the invasion of Ukraine began, we have helped over 220,000 Ukrainian refugees.
99% of JCC Krakow's annual operating budget is raised overseas from foundations, federations, synagogues, families, and individuals. Here's how our funds are used.