Care packages delivered
People joined online classes
social media reach
2020 was a difficult year for all of us. COVID-19 hit Krakow hard, as it did many of your communities. As the primary organization providing services and programming to Krakow’s Jewish community, our JCC mobilized its team of professionals and volunteers to make sure our entire community remained safe and healthy during this unprecedented time.
Nothing was more important to us than caring for our Holocaust survivors. Especially vulnerable to COVID, these pillars of our community, men and women who had survived the Nazis and outlasted communism, needed our help more than ever. I am proud to say we rose to the challenge. We thank our many friends around the world for giving us the resources we need to take care of Krakow’s Jewish community.
- Jonathan Ornstein
JCC Krakow Executive Director
COVID care packages delivery
We were forced to close our building on March 13th, 2020 due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in Poland. This caused us to completely rework our schedule of events as well as our financial structure to adjust to the new reality.
Thanks to the generous support provided by our international friends and partners, JCC Krakow was able to continue providing key services to the local Jewish community like Shabbat Dinners and Jewish Holidays programs as well as other Jewish Continuity programming throughout the pandemic. We also implemented new online spaces where our members were able to build community in safe and welcoming virtual environments.
In addition to providing cultural and social programs for our community, we focused on ensuring the well-being of our most vulnerable members. The regular delivery of personal protective equipment, medicine, groceries, and sanitary products to our seniors and Holocaust survivors proved to be the single largest welfare support project JCC Krakow has ever done. We helped community members stay home and stay safe. Throughout 2020, JCC Krakow made over 500 deliveries and 3,000 phone calls to our most at-risk members.
Building a Jewish Future in Krakow
JCC Krakow first opened its doors in 2008 with 80 founding members. In only 12 years, we’ve grown to over 750 local members with more joining every month. With our unique programming, lively holiday celebrations, and compelling educational opportunities, the Jewish future in Krakow is shining once again.
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 at various entry points by meeting 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. In a normal year there are 50 events at the JCC every month including educational workshops, Jewish lifecycle events, and social mixers.
The JCC is the sole provider of Jewish continuity programming in Krakow. At the core of our mission is the belief that there is a place in our community for all of Krakow’s Jews and their family members. Much of the work we do is focused on intergenerational engagement so community members can learn from one another as they forge their own modern Jewish identities. Many of our members were unaware of their Jewish roots while growing up and rely on the JCC for educational and spiritual programming as they are introduced to the larger Jewish community.
JCC Krakow’s BBYO Tapuzim Club enhances our teenagers’ Jewish experience through creative learning and social activities. The BBYO curriculum covers basic Hebrew, Jewish culture, traditions, history, and holidays in a fun, friendly environment. The BBYO Tapuzim Club continues to meet online regularly until the JCC reopens for general programming.
The Bagel Club was a new initiative created in 2020 to help children and their parents explore Jewish education together through games, workshops, family activities, and Hebrew lessons. The meetings take place every other Sunday and focus on important issues in building intergenerational Jewish identity. The Bagel Club was able to meet in person several times in 2020 while coronavirus case numbers were low.
The JCC Krakow Senior Club is a home away from home and the center of Jewish life for our 130+ seniors, including over 50 Holocaust survivors. We provide many services to our seniors including direct welfare aid to help cover heating and medical costs, and food and care package deliveries as well as transportation to and from our building. We also offer mental and physical health and wellness classes and support.
During the pandemic we have seen a tremendous increase in need among seniors, many of whom have no family in Krakow besides us. With our senior club closed we have delivered weekly food packages, purchased and delivered medicine, transported our seniors to and from medical appointments and arranged for their vaccinations. To prevent loneliness in this isolated group we have made thousands of phone calls and kept in constant touch with every one of our seniors and survivors.
FRAJDA, JCC Krakow’s Early Childhood Center, serves children ages 1-6 from our growing community of young Jewish families. At FRAJDA, our focus is on comprehensive Jewish education. The curriculum covers traditional early childhood subjects/topics, engages with Jewish history and culture- all guided by Jewish values. FRAJDA has continued to operate throughout the pandemic under special COVID-19 regulations introduced by the Polish Ministry of Education.
JCC Krakow’s Hillel GIMEL Jewish Student Club (GIMEL representing the third generation after the Holocaust) convenes Krakow’s Jewish university students. Many Hillel GIMEL members only discovered their Jewish roots as teenagers and were exposed to Jewish culture and heritage for the first time upon moving to Krakow. The club is non-denominational and values diversity, including those who identify as secular, reform, orthodox, and unaffiliated. Hillel GIMEL currently meets online and in person when low case numbers permit.
The Achayot Club launched as a new program in 2020 and is a group for women of all ages that provides specific content to meet the needs of our female identifying members. The word ‘achayot’ means ‘sisters’ in Hebrew. The meetings are diverse and fill the gap that has arisen in Polish education about women. Achayot deals with important topics including those considered difficult and controversial. Achayot continues to meet in digital spaces until the JCC reopens for general programming.
RIDE FOR THE LIVING
Ride For The Living is a unique, immersive experience commemorating the Holocaust and honoring the rebirth of the Jewish community in Krakow. RFTL combines Holocaust education with a memorable 60-mile one-day bike ride from the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau to JCC Krakow, from the darkness to the light, giving participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in Krakow’s Jewish past and present while helping to assure its future.
Last year, in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we crafted a remote Virtual Ride For The Living experience so that people could still participate in this meaningful event from the comfort and safety of their own community. Inspired by the success of Virtual Ride in 2020, we have created the all new Ride For The Living Global Challenge. The Global Challenge combines fitness and Holocaust education to help support JCC Krakow and survivors around the world. In June, 2021 RFTLGC participants will bike, run, and/or walk the symbolic 60 mile distance from Auschwitz to JCC Krakow in their own neighborhoods and will join a global network of over 3,000 people (and counting!)
In Marcel's Footsteps
To commemorate the 76th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz and kick-off early registration for the Global Challenge, Jonathan Ornstein, JCC Krakow Executive Director, joined by Kasia Leonardi, and Ryan Kaplan, walked the 50+ mile route from Auschwitz to Krakow on January 27th in honor of Marcel Zielinski, 86, Holocaust survivor and Ride For The Living participant, who walked the same route 76 years ago after being liberated himself as a 10-year-old boy.
participants in the
2020 Virtual RFTL
by RFTL participants
(almost 6 laps around the Earth)
views of our online
programs for RFTL participants
raised to support
Jewish life in Krakow
1 & 91
ages of our youngest
and oldest participants
2020 Virtual Ride For The Living in Numbers
Expenditure & Revenue
We provide our 750+ 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.
95% of JCC Krakow's annual operating budget is raised overseas from foundations, federations, synagogues, families, and individuals. Here's how our funds are used.
The onset of Covid-19 in March 2020 saw a dramatic change in both the needs of our community and a decline in our ability to provide our normal range of services and programs. As more of our community members get vaccinated, we are increasingly optimistic that normal life in Krakow will resume in the not too distant future.
Until then, our priority is ensuring that all our members remain healthy and safe. We are prepared to reopen our center as soon as circumstances safely permit and we remain committed to rebuilding Jewish life in Krakow and to sharing our community’s story of hope and redemption with the entire world.
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