I would love to write in more detail about this but I thought I would start off a post on Krakow Jewish life.
Do any Jews still live in Krakow Poland?
This is a good question. I live in the old Jewish ghetto of Krakow. My street was the border where the wall divided the Jewish ghetto with the other part. I have be casually reading about the history of Jewish Krakow for about seven years. I am not an expert but how can I not have an interest if I live here? I have many stories that really are other worldly I would like to write about, but this post is less ambitious. It is simply to explain that yes Yiddish and Hebrew is spoken on the street and among the tourists and there are Jews living in Krakow.
Often times the question comes up, do any Jewish people live in Krakow? And if so what is it like for them?
The answer is there are about 100 active Jews here, going to synagogue and observing the rites. However, I would say 1000s of inactive Jews in Krakow. Many people here are Jewish or were born of Jewish mothers and converted to Christianity for obvious reason. Remember about 25% of the city was Jewish, 60,000 people and back then that was a lot of people. Plus all over the coutryside there were people living and this number is often ignored and would bring the figure much higher if ou include the metropolitian area.
Many of my students in Krakow have told me they have a Jewish grandmother or something. I would say about 15% of my Polish students have some Jewish blood. The owners of my building are Jewish. The owners of my friends building are Jewish and come to Krakow sometimes for a long-term stay. I know Jews from England and other places that have set up businesses etc in Kazimierz. There are also over a million Jewish tourists to Kraków every year.
So even though there are a few thousand inactive Jews in Krakow and about 100 active Jews here do not believe the numbers. There are thousands of Jews from all over the world everyday visiting as this is an important city of culture. Their ancestors lived here as long as the Poles did in peace. This is why in my opinion is an important Jewish city today.
What is life like for a Jewish person in Krakow? I think it is like anywhere, the focus is on observing the law of God, living peacefully and in community.
I think Krakow is like 19th century Jewish city. If you live here and are not a just coming through you will see how magical it really is. It is like a time machine. In fact, irony is people have written articles telling people not to come to here as they do not want to spoil this too hidden gem of a city. Maybe, I am a bit guilting of telling people not to come here as I do not want to spoil it myself as it is not too commerical, at least yet.
Do Jewish people experience problems in Krakow?
Did you know if you make a remark to someone based on religion or country of origin etc in Poland it is 2 years in prison? Article 67 of the Polish law protects rights and if you look into Polish law you will find if someone even makes a comment or remark about you in a bad way based on who you are you will get two years. The Police are very strict about this because of the history and the connection with Israel.
Maybe someone has experienced problems but I have never heard of it personally. For sure there are some guys who live in the blocks in the bad section of town, that hold less than enlightened ideas in their small brains, but this is everywhere in the world not just Poland.
Photos of Jewish Kraków
The following are some more photos of Kazimierz
I was out the other day with my camera. There are not professional photos but just some I took while I was in Kazimierz waiting to get a haircut. You can decide for yourself if in Kazimierz or any other part of Krakow, if there are any traces of Jewish culture.
An active Jewish Synagogue in Krakow
Jagiellonian University is where people study Hebrew and about Jewish culture.
I can not even begin to go into the history as it is beyond the scope of this post.
Do you like sitting at a cafe and reading? This is a Krakovian tradition. And you are in luck because…
Orthodox or conservative rituals of cleasing are important. In fact, I heard this one of the first thing that was built in the community here. It makes sense as you should be pure in body and mind to ask for God’s wisdom to build a new community.
I think most people cook at home, but it always helps if you have somewhere to go when you want to go out.
Even the big commercial shops have Kosher food, just like in the USA.
Kazimesh has it all when it comes to culture. But after about a couple of weeks you might see all the tourist things and then take a few years to settle in and enjoy the atmosphere.
I would be more than happy to answer any questions if you are coming to Krakow. I am not Jewish. I am an American Catholic and Polish also. However, if you have any questions about Jewish Krakow or Poland in general I will do my best to answer them.