Virtual Shtetl Project - September 13, 2009 Meeting

Program description:

There will be a brief introduction to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews which will open in 2012 on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. This multimedia narrative museum and cultural center will present the history of Polish Jews and the rich civilization they created over the course of almost 1000 years. Initiated by the Jewish Historical Institute Association in Warsaw in 1996, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will be a unique institution. Not only is it the first and only museum to focus on the history of Polish Jews, but also it is a truly twenty-first century institution in every regard.

Then, the speakers will describe the Virtual Shtetl Portal ( which is devoted to the local history of Jews. It is based on the interaction of web surfers using Web 2.0 technology. It is a bridge between the history of Polish Jewish towns and the contemporary, multicultural world.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been creating this modern tool at a time when the construction of the museum building is just beginning. The Virtual Shtetl is a museum without walls, a logical consequence of the initiative to build the Museum, providing a unique social forum for all those interested in Polish Jewish life.

The Virtual Shtetl depicts the history of Polish Jews, which in great part was created in towns (Yiddish: shtetl). On the Portal one can find information pertaining to the past but also to the present; to little towns, but also to large cities. The Portal presents both contemporary and also pre-war Poland (including Eastern Galicia).

The Virtual Shtetl is not a place, but rather the community by which it is created. Let us take pictures and look for the relics of the past, let us listen to accounts. Let us exchange information and encourage one another to take up initiatives. Let us get to know one another and act.


Grzegorz (Greg) Kolacz works for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. He is the Deputy Coordinator of  one of  the Museum’s projects - the "Virtual Shtetl" Project. He is a historian and has been working in the field of Jewish history in Poland for the last seven years. He worked for the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations as an educational trainer. He worked in the Shalom Foundation, curating the collection of photographs "And I Still See Their Faces," creating and coordinating the website "Kaddish for the Departed" (, coordinating cultural and educational projects (Holocaust Remembrance Day; Festival of Jewish Culture "Singer's Warsaw," 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising). For last year he has been working in the multimedia project "Virtual Shtetl" in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw (

He published the book "Sometimes It Is Hard to Defend Yourself. Conditioning of Jewish Attitudes During the Nazi Occupation in Poland," which received an award in the Jan Józef Lipski Competition organized by the Open Republic, Association Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia, and nominated to the History Book Award of "Polityka" weekly magazine. He lives in Warsaw.

Robert Socolof is the Executive Director of the North American Council – the U.S. arm of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. He has worked for over twenty years in the American Jewish community with organizations such as the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Prior to that, Robert served eight years in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, working at the Consulate General of Israel in New York and the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. He lives in White Plains, New York.

Beata Schulmann is on the staff of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, The “Virtual Shtetl” Project.

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Last updated: May 12, 2011