Bay Area-based Taube Philanthropies is celebrating the conclusion of a yearlong exchange program between local rabbis and Jewish community leaders across Poland.
The virtual exchange — dubbed “Minyan Makers” — saw local religious leaders log online to facilitate Jewish text studies for Polish professionals from the Auschwitz Jewish Center, the Galicia Jewish History Museum, JCCs in Krakow and Warsaw, and other organizations.
The exchange, inspired by a 2015 Jewish heritage tour of the Eastern European country for local clergy affiliated with the Northern California Board of Rabbis, brought 13 local rabbis together with 44 Polish professionals from 21 institutions, and was funded via a grant from Taube Philanthropies. Its founder, the Bay Area real estate developer and businessman Tad Taube, was born in Kraków in 1931, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1939 just months before the Nazis invaded Poland.
Taube has donated millions toward efforts to revitalize Jewish life in the country after its Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. In 2007 Taube was named an honorary Polish diplomat for the San Francisco Bay Area.
Today approximately 4,500 Jews live in Poland, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
Among the local rabbis who participated in Minyan Makers were educator Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, Rabbi Danny Gottlieb of San Francisco’s Beth Israel Judea, Rabbi Serena Eisenberg of the American Jewish Committee and Rabbi Pam Frydman of the Northern California Board of Rabbis.
In post-Holocaust Poland … we have found a common place to reimagine Jewish life reborn.
Participants were divided into four minyanim, or groups of at least 10, to study excerpts from the Torah, the Talmud, from Jewish prayer liturgy and from Kabbalistic writings.
Wolf-Prusan led the first Minyan Makers session. He said in a release that he chose to teach the opening lessons from Pirkei Avot (Sayings of Our Fathers) because of its themes of revitalization and renewal.
“This simple and elegant dialogue between teachers and students, composed after the destruction of Judean autonomy in the second century, reveals the central mission of the Mishnah itself — the reconstruction and revitalization of Jewish life,” Wolf-Prusan said. “It was relevant then and is relevant now, in post-Holocaust Poland, where we have found a common place to reimagine Jewish life reborn.”
With the conclusion of the program on June 22, Taube Philanthropies announced a second exchange program facilitated by Gabe Miner, the Taube Center’s rabbinic intern. Supported by Roselyne Swig and the Libitzky Family Foundation, the new program, called Doresh, will continue efforts to introduce Jewish texts to interested students, incorporating Polish Jewish sources.
Helise Lieberman, director of the Taube Center in Warsaw, lauded Doresh as a successor to Minyan Makers.
“It is possible to facilitate engaging online learning experiences that inspire a sense of communal connection,” she said. “Doresh will create a virtual beit midrash, a house of study, building on this connection as it fosters a sense of peoplehood.”
For more information or to sign up for Doresh, go to taubecenter.org.