The spring issue of Chidusz, now a quarterly, is packed to a brim with 144 pages of interviews, essays, and literature. In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we publish the short story The Shawl by the brilliant American writer Cynthia Ozick for the first time in Polish. And on the 55th anniversary of March ’68, Anna Grinzweig Jacobsson reminisces on the Jewish migration to Sweden. Konstanty Gebert explains why the citizens of Israel took to the streets. Hanka Grupinska tells Paula Szewczyk about her book Opowieści Żydowskie. And the cover features Rabbi Becky Keren Eisenstadt, who rose to her Instagram fame as My Hot Rabbi. See what else we write about in the latest issue of Chidusz 1/2023.
CYNTHIA OZICK, THE SHAWL
The latest issue opens with the short story by Cynthia Ozick titled The Shawl – first published in The New Yorker in 1980. It tells the story of Rosa, her elder daughter Stella, and baby Magda, who struggle to survive in a concentration camp. Cynthia Ozick, an excellent American writer, managed to encapsulate the horror of the Holocaust in a powerful piece of prose contained in fewer than two thousand words. To honor the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we publish The Shawl for the first time in Polish, as translated by Aga Zano. In the next, summer issue of Chidusz, we will publish another short story by Ozick titled Rosa.
SCRAPS AND FLAVORS. AN INTERVIEW WITH HANKA GRUPINSKA
‘Before the war, poverty among Jews was much more common than wealth. The stories told by Joanna Olczak-Ronikier or Jarosław Kurski in their books are real, but let’s keep in mind they are also the stories of an elite few,’ says Hanka Grupińska to Paula Szewczyk in a conversation about her book Opowieści Żydowskie.
Read an excerpt from the interview here:
Paula Szewczyk: In Opowieści Żydowskie, you managed to revoke the pre-war times from the perspective of the early 2000s. You made it possible for us to hear the voices that are no longer with us today. Was it a ‘now or never’ decision for you?
Hanka Grupinska: I think it was too late anyway. Oral history projects on Shoah or what came before it should have been completed in the late 1990s, when a lot of people who went through it were still alive and not as old and tired of life. Since my first conversation with Marek Edelman in 1985, I had a sense that all of it is being done too late – by then, many of the survivors had already passed away. Since then, it was a race against time for me. I knew that these were the last moments to hear those tales and to write them down. …
I take it you use the term ‘tales’ on purpose.
I could have used the word ‘stories’ instead, but I felt it sounded too stiff. ‘Tales’ have a certain warmth to them, they are more individual. They make for a personal account of what those people remembered. I wanted to preserve as much of their memory as possible. It’s not about the historical truth, it’s not about any kind of truth, realy, other than that of the memories held by the people who went through it.
REMEMBER WE MUST ALWAYS BE READY
‘When we first arrived in Sweden, people didn’t realize we were expelled from our country for being Jewish. They thought us to be refugees running,’ says Anna Grinzweig Jacobsson, author of the book Flykten till Marstrand [Escape to Marstrand] which was first published in Poland recently. In November 1969, six-year-old Anna found herself among a group of Jewish refugees from Poland on a small island in western Sweden, bracing themselves for a life in a new country.
Read an excerpt from the interview here:
Katarzyna Andersz: In your book, you wrote that your father used to tell you about his wartime experiences when you went for walks, back when you still lived in Wrocław. At the time, you weren’t even six years old.
Anna Grinzweig Jacobsson: Only much later did I realize it wasn’t normal for children to be aware of such things. I did not learn about the Holocaust through a serious talk with my parents, I had known about it for as long as I could remember. In my mind, my father’s memories were more like adventure stories, and I don’t think they scared me. My father, however, was always serious about them. ‘I’m telling you about it all because you need to know that one day, something like this might happen again,’ he said to me.
When you first heard that you were leaving and that Jews were not welcome in Poland, did it connect to your father’s warnings?
He even told me at the time: ‘Do you remember what happened to us when I was young? Remember how I told you that we are Jews and so we must always be ready? Now, the moment has come and we must go.’ This is what he had to say.
MY HOT RABBI
During her hour-long interview with Anna Pamuła, Rabbi Becky – the Instagram-famous My Hot Rabbi – received as many as 752 messages. As she confesses, sometimes she would prefer the people who contact her to be husband material, but they are all her clients. New York’s richest Jewish men and women, bankers and economists, actresses and fashion designers – they’re all looking for a modern rabbi to officiate their wedding, prepare their child for bat mitzvah, recite Kaddish over their parents’ graves, all that while not making them feel bad about their hypercapitalist lifestyle. On the morning when she sat down for an interview with Chidusz, rabbi’s hair was still tousled (on the Internet, her storm of chestnut hair is usually tamed and combed), wearing a sweatshirt back-to-front, a mug of coffee in one hand. The interview quickly transforms into a tale in which all questions seem redundant…
THE JEWISH PRINCESS AND A PEA
How can one person experience being a concentration camp inmate, a stowaway on a ship, a tabloid journalist and the Scientologists’ greatest enemy, all of that in just one lifetime? Anna Pamuła tells the story of Paulette Cooper: the woman who had written down thousands of other people’s stories, and still hasn’t learned the most important one of all – that of her Polish parents.
‘IT’S NOT POLAND HERE’? NO, NOT ANYMORE
Konstanty Gebert explains in detail why Israelis took to the streets recently.
Excerpt from the article:
Today, the National Security Minister, previously convicted for promoting racism and inciting terrorism, is considered a threat to national security by his subordinate police force. The Minister of Finances has threatened to withdraw funding for the Ministry of Defense should his political demands be rejected. In turn, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told him to tell the governor of the National Bank not to raise the interest rates, even though the national currency has lost 10% of its value against the dollar in just one month – all to make sure that other countries don’t think that something is wrong.
STANISŁAW KRAJEWSKI: ARE THE JEWS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? – THE JEWISH COUNTERCULTURE
The title of Prof. Stanisław Krajewski’s column refers to a well-known and rather intriguing saying: Jews are like everyone else, only more so.
Excerpt from the article:
I want to write in a way that is, first of all, very personal, and secondly, still in touch with the important problems of the modern world. Since I have left my youth far behind, some of my comments on these problems will refer to the decades past. This should not make things more difficult for my younger readers; after all, most of the current challenges originate in earlier times. I will also refer to my life quite a bit. In that sense, it will be a proper column. In the first one, I’d like to talk about the Jewish counterculture.
‘THE JEWISH SOUL’ IN THE WROCŁAW SYNAGOGUE
For the first time, the new permanent exhibition at the White Stork Synagogue will present the collection from the treasury of the Jewish Community in Wrocław. Until now, the treasury has been a mystery even to the researchers and members of the Jewish community. Finally, Michał Bojanowski can reveal some of its secrets.
HOW I FELL IN LOVE IN THE POLISH HISTORICAL POLITICS #1
Katarzyna Markusz writes about the meanders of Polish (right-wing) historical politics.
Excerpt from the article:
The Treblinka Museum titled the project, meaningfully, ‘Treblinka: Hear our voices,’ in reference to one of the most important Christian prayers, Litany to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, in which the congregation pleads ‘Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us’ … ‘The main purpose of this project was to create an appropriate message that can help promote the knowledge about the events and the tragic fate of the victims …’ – that’s what it says on the Treblinka Museum website, without any clarification, however, who were the victims the website mentions. Nor will we learn it from the accompanying film Treblinka. The Death Camp, shown to the museum visitors and created within the framework of same project. The film is seven minutes long; during this time, the narrator describes the arrival of prisoners at the camp, and the selection process that took place on the ramp. The voice-over speaks about Ukrainians and Germans (we can clearly hear orders given in German). Throughout the entire screening, not once does the word ‘Jews’ sound out. It seems that mentioning the Jewish victims was not necessary. When we listen to the recorded voices of the victims, they all turn out to speak Polish. So it becomes very obvious that, according to the museum, it was mostly Poles who perished in the Treblinka death camp.
MODELING ON MATZEVOT
Krzysztof Bielawski writes about the phenomenon of lingerie photosessions at Jewish cemeteries.
Excerpt from the article:
In Sopot, there was a photoshoot of a model dressed up as a ghost. More drastic photos were taken at the Jewish cemetery in Katowice. An ingenious ‘artist set up his female model to look like a woman in labor, with her legs spread wide, thighs smeared with fake blood, supine, on the ground among the ivy and tombs. There is also a photo of a brunette model nuzzling a tombstone while wearing nothing but a thong and high black heels; this one was taken most likely at the cemetery in Wrocław. In the spring of 2011, two tourists visiting the Jewish cemetery in Łódź were shocked to see a half-naked model posing for a photoshoot near the mausoleum of Izrael Poznański. Seeing them approach, the photographer quickly threw a shirt over the girl’s shoulders and they ran away, hiding among the graves.
THE ORDINARY ISRAELI LIFE. CROPS OF THE FIELDS AND MEADOWS IN MY KITCHEN
There are no more meadows of wild cyclamen, so gorgeous in their various shades of pink; the multicolored anemones, purple lupines, no more red poppies, writes Anna Knafo in the new series of articles on modern life in Israel. Today, the hillsides and valleys are covered by the yellow carpets of rapeseed, mustard, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and the much-loved six-leaf clover with its tart edible stems. I would like to share two recipes here – so that for a brief moment, you can be transported to Israel and taste the popular local dishes enjoyed in both Arab and Jewish cuisine.
CHAIM GRADE: AGUNA
FINAL CHAPTERS OF CHAIM GRADE’S BRILLIANT NOVEL
Starting with the 10/2021 issue of Chidusz, we have been publishing the instalments of Chaim Grade’s Aguna, in the first Polish translation by Magdalena Wójcik. The Yiddish community considered Grade the most serious candidate for the Nobel Prize in Jewish literature after Bashevis Singer. In this issue, we are getting ready to part with the world of pre-war Jewish Vilnius where Hasidim are not welcome and rabbis are respected even by the former revolutionaries. In the final episodes, the titular agunah will face her persecutor, Moishe Tsirulnik, who is in love with her.
JEWISH CEMETERY IN JELENIA GÓRA. THE TOMBSTONE STORIES
Genealogist Marta Maćkowiak unearths some of the pre-war Jewish histories of Jelenia Góra through the matzevot preserved in the local Jewish cemetery. In her first article, she tells the story of Rosel (Rosalie) Aptekmann.
SEVEN MORE ESSAYS FROM JUDITH PLASKOW
We continue the fascinating journey through the meanders of feminist criticism of Judaism. In this issue, we publish seven short articles by Judith Plaskow: Jewish Anti-Paganism (on the Jewish perceptions of pagans), Dealing with the Hard Stuff (on the book of Ester and challenging passages in Torah), God: Some Feminist Questions (on the language that we use when we try to describe God), ‘It Is Not In Heaven’ (on the problems we encounter with various authority figures), Beyond Egalitarianism (on the quest for the true equality in Judaism), Facing the Ambiguity of God (on how we tend to overlook certain aspects of God), and What’s Wrong with Hierarchy? (on the criticism of various hierarchy models).
SHORTS: BRIEF ARTICLES ON OTHER TOPICS
In a series of short articles we cover a number of topics including five Jewish TV series you should see, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ report on hatred in the National Media, Einstein in Israel, the Jewish argument over the banality of evil, and on the new discoveries and commemorations in the Jewish cemeteries.
Click here to read about this issue in Polish.