In 2011 we celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland (Stowarzyszenie Żydowski Instytut Historyczny – SŻIH). For years, its objectives have remained unchanged. In accordance with its current statute, the Association aims to preserve and commemorate the history and culture of Polish Jews, and their contribution to the global culture. In order to fulfil those objectives, the Association cultivates and propagates the tradition of Polish Jews, supports and proliferates scientific research concerning Jewish history and culture, and in particular the history and culture of Polish Jews; it educates and promotes tolerance; it cooperates with other Jewish organisations, as well as with institutions sharing similar objectives in Poland and across the world; it strives to win the cooperation of scientists and Jewish cultural activists; it spreads the knowledge about the body of work of the Institute of Judaic Sciences, the Central Judaic Library, the Jewish Historical Committee and the YIVO Yiddish Scientific Institute in Vilnius.
The Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland has been active ever since the day of its registration on 13/09/1951, when its statute obtained approval from the state authorities. It was founded to create a legal and organisational framework for the Jewish Historical Institute existing since 1947. The founding members of the SŻIH included Bernard Mark, Szymon Datner, Artur Eisenbach, Józef Sandel, Ernestyna Sandlowa, Perła Zelman, Froim [Efraim] Kupfer, Adam Rutkowski, Lejzor Piekarz, Izrael Szajn, Wolf Iwan, Rozalia Wszędobylska and Aniela Truskierowa.
The first statutes (of 1951 and 1964) established a close link between the Association and the Institute – among other things, the Chairperson of the Board of the SŻIH also acted as the Director of the Institute. In the 1970s structural links between the two institutions loosened, which was reflected in the statute approved on 19/12/1975. According to its provisions, the Chairperson of the Board of the Association was no longer appointed to the post of Institute Director. In the 1980s a need arose to re-define the connections between the Association and the Institute, in accordance with the Act of 25/07/1985 on scientific and research institutions, and in accordance with the Decree of the Council of Ministers of 18/08/1986 on scientific supervision by the Polish Academy of Sciences of scientific and research institutes run by scientific associations. During the meeting on 19/03/1987 the Board of the SŻIH approved a draft of a new statute. Its provisions caused some controversy concerning too radical limitation of the prerogatives of the Institute Director, and the fact it subjected the Institute’s operation to the decisions of the SŻIH Board. The controversy resulted in resignation of the incumbent Institute Director.
From 1991 the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute remained under financial authority of the State Committee for Scientific Research. Unlike the Polish Academy of Sciences, which treated the Institute as a scientific research institution, the Committee included it into the same category as other associations (which was in accordance with the statute). This dramatically reduced the level of state funding. Work was done to introduce changes into the charter and the SŻIH structure, in order to facilitate continuation of the Institute’s work. Eventually, on 18/04/1994, a separate scientific research institute was established as a scientific research unit under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and Art. It was financed by the State Committee for Scientific Research (and later by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education).
The work on the Association’s new statute lasted from 1994 until 1996. The document was subsequently slightly amended in 2007 and 2011.
In 1993 the vision of creating the Museum of the History of Polish Jews arose, and has ever since remained the Association’s main goal.
In 2005 the city of Warsaw and the Polish government signed an agreement on building the Museum.
The Association initiated two multi-media projects. 2007 was the beginning of the project entitled “The Polish Righteous”, the objective of which was to preserve the memory about the Polish “Righteous Among the Nations”, and to document the histories of the Jews they rescued.
The second project, commenced in 2009, is called “Virtual Shtetl”. It documents the history of local Jewish communities in the areas of pre-war Poland.
The Association of the Jewish Historical Institute constantly strives to fulfil their statutory objectives, mainly by cooperating with The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute (until 31/12/2008 the Institute was called the Jewish Historical Institute – the Scientific Research Institute), and by implementing and supporting the project of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
Author: Martyna Sypniewska