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CentrALT-Centre for Polish Jewish Art and Activism | Civic Europe
Arts and cultural activities, Law, advocacy and policy

CentrALT-Centre for Polish Jewish Art and Activism

Creating a space for dialogue and activism in a historic Jewish disctrict, where Jewish culture has been appropriated and commodified to promote Holocaust tourism


Who is behind this?

Michael Rubenfeld




Idea pitch

We want to establish CentrALT – a year-round physical centre for Jewish art and activism – to tackle long-standing issues that, unexamined, have solidified or even normalized problematic representations and appropriations of Jewish culture and memory in Krakow, Poland. CentrALT will be established in the former Jewish district of Kazimierz, and use contemporary art and activism as tools to stimulate civic and critical engagement with the complexities of Jewish Poland today.

Where will your project idea take place?

Krakow, South Poland

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Jewish revival in Poland is caught between the legacies of the Holocaust and Communist repression, and the current tides of tourism and gentrification. This renewal is further complicated by rising nationalist or discriminatory tendencies that are steadily gaining strength. CentrALT will be a Jewish-led venue, engaging multiple stakeholders and operating at the intersection of these forces. It will provide a space to process the Polish-Jewish trauma and hurt and develop new definitions of contemporary Polish Jewish identity through art, activism, advocacy and dialogue.

Who are you doing it for?

CentrALT’s aim is to engage Jews and non-Jews in Krakow and Poland. Given Krakow's hugely significant role for Poland's Jewish past and present, our willingness to insist on focussing on difficult issues initially through a 10-day Festival since 2017 has found us quickly establishing a meaningful and impactful position in Krakow and throughout Poland. As a year-round venue, CentrALT will become exponentially more visible and effective at engaging with locals and visitors throughout the year. Our work will also aim to, as much as possible, work closely with the Krakow municipality. Through our work in Krakow over the past 4 years, we have discovered a genuine willingness from the City to co-operate with us, and CentrALT will create a sustainable platform for this work to fluorish.

How do you plan to get there?

CentrALT will be a visible home for an authentic year-round Jewish-run space. The venue will be found with support from the City of Krakow. After four years of presenting FestivALT, we see that our work has major impact, however we and much of Krakow’s Jewish secular cultural life remain invisible. It is CentrALT’s visibility and consistency that will be key for us.
There are three areas of programming CentrALT will inaugurate with:

“Lucky Jews” are figurines and paintings of Jews with coins that are sometimes sold in Poland for good luck. While some see them as remembrances of pre-war Poland, for many they are antisemitic caricatures. CentrALT will engage in an advocacy project to raise awareness about this problematic issue in Krakow.

Płaszów – The site of the former concentration camp KL Płaszów, in the Podgórze district of Kraków, is primarily used today as a public park and recreation area. The City is planning a museum on the site, which is opposed by locals who fear touristification and environmental deterioration.

Kazimierz –This Jewish district of Krakow is one of the most magnificent remnants of Poland’s Jewish past, maintaining most of its pre-war buildings. The neighbourhood, however, left unregulated, has become a heartbreaking example of both gentrification and commodification of Jewish culture now bordering on becoming a Jewish theme park.

What are the expected results?

Our goal is to initiate a venue that will bring authentic Jewish voices to the forefront of artistic and activist life in Krakow. CentrALT will promote visible, progressive, democratic representations of art and activism through a Polish Jewish lens. We will raise awareness for minority representation, systemic marginalization and racism, encouraging policy shifts in publicly funded institutions. We will raise awareness about the touristification and commodification of Jewish heritage and memory in Poland, and advocate for better memorialization practices. We will provide a laboratory for experimentation, research and development of artistic and activist thought to support transformational opportunities in the difficult territory of Polish Jewish identity politics.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

CentrALT will operate as a physical hub that invites active local and national engagement for the purpose of exploring, experimenting and being a part of the construction of modern definitions of the Polish Jewish reality. It will use art and culture as tools to stimulate civic engagement, operating as a public home for critical thought, the promotion of inclusive activist practices, and as a platform to negotiate the future of our democratic societies. CentrALT will actively encourage participation with local citizens and actively partner with diverse organizations. We will maintain strong ties to the City to ensure that an authentic local Jewish voice is present when determining policy and regulation around Jewish issues - something that is currently not always present.

Why is this idea important to you?

The team behind CentrALT is also behind FestivALT, a 10-day progressive Jewish art festival led by Magda Rubenfeld Koralewska, who is a civic activist and community builder and Michael Rubenfeld, an international award-winning cultural producer. From 2016-19 we presented FestivALT as a 10-day festival. In 2020, due to Covid, we shifted our activities to a 5-month program, which had an exponential impact on our capacity to deepen engagement. This was our motivation for CentrALT. The team also includes PR & communications specialist Karolina Harazim, professor and anthropologist Aleksandra Janus, writer and educator, Adam Schorin, freelance journalist and activist, Natalia Czarkowska, composer Alex Roth, photographer/writer, Jason Francisco, and multimedia music artist, Wiktor Podgórski.

€ 124000,-

Total budget

€ 34000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Rent - €24,000 (€2000 per month x 12 months)
Venue Design - €10,000
Marketing and Public Relationships - €8000
Personel - €22,000
Programs - €60,000

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Any comments or experience on how a physical venue can inform organisational identity and any possible collaboration or ideas that contribute to our goals with CentrALT would be very appreciated!



Idea created on April 26, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

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