The idea of creating the Judaica Foundation - Center for Jewish Culture was born in Cracow at the end of the 1980s, a time of historic changes in Poland. The idea emerged among people from the worlds of culture, education and the arts. The late President of the Jewish Congregation in Cracow, Czesław Jakubowicz, was actively involved in this civic initiative. The Foundation began its activities in 1991, and on November 24, 1993, the Center was opened under its auspices.
The main aims of this civic initiative are to preserve the Jewish heritage, to perpetuate the memory of the centuries-long presence of the Jews in Poland, to disseminate knowledge of the history and culture of the Polish Jews among young people, to create a platform for Polish-Jewish dialogue, and to promote the values of an open civil society.
The Foundation's headquarters in Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Cracow, is a former house of prayer built in the 1880s by the B'nei Emuna Prayer and Benevolent Society to the design of Cracow architect and builder Jacek Matusiński. Until the Second World War it served religious purposes. During the war and for many years afterward the building was used as a carpentry workshop and later for storage, and from the early 1980s it was an abandoned ruin. Now the Center is a place open to all. The Center's program, addressed to the Jewish and non-Jewish public from Poland and abroad, includes lectures, meetings with authors, book promotions, conferences and seminars, documentary and feature film showings, concerts, exhibitions, conferences, seminars, and special summer programs. The Center's Bayit Hadash (New Home) Encounters with Jewish Culture is a month packed with thematically grouped events, usually devoted to a single personage or topic, organized since 1996 in Tishri, the first month of the Jewish year, during the High Holidays.
The Center's Aleksander and Alicja Hertz Annual Memorial Lecture is a series of lectures related to Polish-Jewish issues, subsequently published in Polish and English. Czesław Miłosz inaugurated the series in 1999 with a lecture on his friendship with Aleksander Hertz, and was followed by Shoshana Ronen and Ryszard Kapu¶ciński. Upcoming publications in this series include lectures by Karl Dedecius and Shlomo Avineri.