Irene Kronhill Pletka was born in Shanghai. Thanks to a Sugihara visa, her parents, Jakob and Lilka Kronzylberg, both Polish citizens, were able to flee from Vilna in January 1941 and cross Russia to Japan and then Shanghai. The family moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1946.
Mrs Pletka was educated in Melbourne, and later studied and lived in London and Boston, and in the 1990s settled in Manhattan. She has degrees in psychology and in fine arts. Active in youth movements, cultural activities and Jewish life as well as business, she places particular emphasis on reviving, restoring and maintaining secular Jewish culture and the Yiddish language. Today she divides her time between Jerusalem, Melbourne, and New York. Since 2007, she has been directing a foundation dedicated to the memory of her parents. The foundation supports Jewish cultural and educational activities and social justice activities around the world. She is also the member of the Board of Directors of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the Center for Jewish History and the JOINT, (JDC) which helped her family and so many others during our darkest hours.
The reconstruction of a replica of the roof, painted ceiling and the Bimah of the Gwoździec wooden synagogue that is part of the Core Exhibition was made possible by her generosity and that of her foundation.
“This is a memorial for my family, a memorial that will show that we were here. In the future, people will see that this was a history to nurture, a history so beautiful and luminous that only golden generations could have created it.”
Irene Pletka, Distinguished Benefactor of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews