Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, senior advisor to POLIN Museum’s director, and the museum’s liaison for international affairs. She will be in Australia as Kronhill Visiting Scholar.
She is a member of the Board of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, the non-profit organization in Poland that initiated the creation of POLIN Museum, produced the core exhibition, and raised the funds to do so.
She is University Professor Emerita and Professor Emerita of Performance Studies at New York University. Her books include Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage; Image before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland, 1864–1939 (with Lucjan Dobroszycki); They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust (with Mayer Kirshenblatt), The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times (with Jonathan Karp): and Anne Frank Unbound: Media
Imagination, and Memory (with Jeffrey Shandler. She received an award for lifetime achievement from the Foundation for Jewish Culture; an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland from the President of Poland. She currently serves on Advisory Boards for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Council of American Jewish Museums, Vienna Jewish Museum, Berlin Jewish Museum, and Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.
During her time in Australia, she will feature at public events in both Melbourne and Sydney. There will be 2 public lectures at Monash Caulfield (27 and 29 October) and a Special Event Film Screening + Q&A as part of the Jewish International Film Festival (1 Nov).
Tuesday 27 October, 7.30pm
H1.16 Monash Caulfield Campus
Facing the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes on the site of the Warsaw ghetto and prewar Jewish neighbourhood, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews completes the memorial complex. At the monument, we honour those who died by remembering how they died. At the museum, we honour them – and those who came before and after – by remembering how they lived. Since POLIN Museum opened the building in April 2013, almost a million visitors have passed through its doors. This lecture explores the creation of POLIN Museum and its multimedia narrative exhibition, a journey of a thousand years, and it potential to be an agent of transformation that can move an entire society forward.
Co presented with
Thursday 29 October, 7.30pm
H1.16 Monash Caulfield Campus
Mayer Kirshenblatt, born in Opatów (Apt in Yiddish) in 1916, left a remarkable record in both words and images of Jewish life in Poland before the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of an inquisitive boy. He left Poland for Canada in 1934 and taught himself to paint at age 73. Since then, he made it his mission to remember the world of his childhood in living color, “lest future generations know more about how Jews died than how they lived.” His daughter, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, will present his lively paintings woven together with his stories, based on interviews that she recorded with him for more than forty years, Together, father and daughter recover a lost world – the streets and courtyards of the town of Apt, witness details of daily life, and meet those who lived and worked there: the pregnant hunchback, who stood under the wedding canopy just hours before giving birth; the kheyder teacher caught in bed with the drummer’s wife; the cobbler’s son, who was dressed in white pajamas all his life to fool the angel of death; the corpse that was shaved; and the couple who held a “black wedding” in the cemetery during a cholera epidemic.
This moving collaboration–a unique blend of memoir, oral history, and artistic interpretation–is at once a labor of love, a tribute to a distinctive imagination, and a brilliant portrait of life in one Jewish home town.
The lecture will be followed by a film about Mayer’s return to his home town, Opatów, and how the town received him.
Film Screening + Q&A
Sunday 1 November, 4.00pm
Classic Cinema, Gordon Street, Elsternwick
The synagogues of 18th-century Poland inspired artists Rick and Laura Brown of Handshouse Studio to embark on a 10-year pursuit—to reconstruct the elaborate roof and painted ceiling of the Gwozdziec synagogue. Leading over 300 students and professionals from 16 countries, the Browns grapple not just with the echoes of World War II when these buildings were destroyed by the Nazis, but also with warped timbers, tricky paints, and period hand tools. By the end of the project, they have done more than reconstruct a lost synagogue: they have recovered a lost world. In 2014, the Gwozdziec roof was unveiled as the centerpiece of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
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