Letter From Cracow: Of Klezmers and Conciliation

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When I first visited kazimierz, the former Jewish ghetto of Cracow, it felt empty. Its 60,000 Jews had perished in Nazi concentration camps and, even in 1985, few Poles had moved in. The place was an eerie void. My father pointed out the building he'd lived in as a poor student in the 1930s; it was a burned-out shell. Others stood deserted but for a handful of squatters and alcoholics. In front of the main synagogue on Szeroka Street, one small gallery sold Jewish-themed art to the occasional tourist. The flourishing culture of Jewish Poland was gone and, it seemed, all but forgotten.
 
 
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Thus the Jewish festival has become something more than a memorial. Jews these days return to Cracow not only to mourn but to celebrate, as the author Ruth Gruber has put it. "When I drink and talk with my Jewish friends," one of the organizers told me in 1992, "we are creating a new world." Drinking into the night to the strains of klezmer on Szeroka Street a few weeks ago, I discovered he might be right.
 
 
 
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Source: Newsweek