International Conference "From Shtetl to Post – Jewish Town"

Po brukowanej ulicy jakiegoś miasteczka spaceruje kilka osób. English description: A few people are walking along the cobbled street of a town.
Fot. Zbiory Instytutu Sztuki PAN / phot. Collections of the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences

The conference will explore how shtetls like Opatów became post-Jewish towns and how their Jewish communities are remembered by those who once lived there and by those who live there today.

  • September 8–10, 2024 (Sunday – Tuesday), POLIN Museum
  • Call for papers is now closed
  • More information: [email protected]

While the historical shtetl has been studied extensively, the post-Jewish town, as a historical phenomenon and evolving site of contested memory, has received less attention. After the Holocaust, the many towns where Jewish communities had lived for centuries and where they had created a distinctive way of life became places without Jews. Gathering scholars from Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Israel, and the United States, this conference will explore how shtetls transformed into post-Jewish spaces. Historians, sociologists, anthropologists, architects, archaeologists, and heritage practitioners will discuss this process from various angles, looking at the fate of Jewish architectural heritage (such as cemeteries) and personal property, memory practices among Jews and non-Jews, and the reconstitution of shtetl communities in new places.

The conference is organized as part of the events accompanying the new temporary exhibition of POLIN Museum "(post)JEWISH… Shtetl Opatów Through the Eyes of Mayer Kirshenblatt." The exhibition juxtaposes postwar memories of prewar Jewish life in Polish Opatów, as recorded in words and paintings by a self-taught artist – Mayer Kirshenblatt, with the postwar post-Jewish town.

The organizers will reimburse speakers for travel expenses to and from Warsaw (economy class tickets) and provide accommodation during the conference.

The organizers reserve the right to publish conference materials.

Steering committee

  • David Assaf (Tel Aviv University)
  • Aleksandra Jakubczak (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews/Harvard University)
  • Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews)
  • Antony Polonsky (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews)
  • Natalia Romik (The Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah)
  • Jeffrey Shandler (Rutgers University)
  • Magdalena Waligórska (Humboldt University in Berlin)

Logos of GEOP, Taube Philantrophies, William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, POLIN Museum, Humboldt University in Berlin, Tel Aviv University and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

The Conference is made possible thanks to the support of the European Association for Jewish Studies.

Logo European Association for Jewish Studies

Events accompanying the exhibition "(post)JEWISH… Shtetl Opatów Through the Eyes of Mayer Kirshenblatt" are organized thanks to the support of:

Taube Philantrophies    The CBRAT Foundation in loving memory of Joseph and Miriam Ratner Jankilevitsch Foundation