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Chuck Fishman: Roots, Resilience and Renewal—A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975–2016

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<June 2018>


Chuck Fishman: Roots, Resilience and Renewal—A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975–2016
Opening Reception and Photographer's Talk

Sunday, September 17, 2017 | 1:30 – 3 p.m.
Derfner Judaica Museum
5901 Palisade Avenue | (Riverdale) Bronx, New York

Fordham University's Jewish Studies program and Derfner Judaica Museum and the Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale are pleased to announce the opening reception for its latest exhibition.

The exhibition includes 36 black-and-white photographs made during multiple trips Fishman took to Poland over a period of more than 40 years, first as a young college student and later as a professional photojournalist. He first traveled to Poland in the summer of 1975 during the Communist era. He was accompanied by a writer, and they were in search of what remained of Jewish life and culture in a country that Jews had inhabited for 1,000 years, a once-vibrant community whose history and legacy lay on the brink of extinction.

What Fishman found were synagogues—locked, decaying, and/or abandoned—and cemeteries in ruin; older Jews living on pensions, by and large "underground" and with scant communal resources such as the "kosher kitchens" in Warsaw, Krakow, and Wroclaw; a Jewish club in Lodz; Friday night or Shabbat services in Warsaw and Krakow; and the Yiddish theater in Warsaw. That first journey resulted in the publication of Polish Jews: The Final Chapter (McGraw-Hill and New York University Press, 1977).

Returning several times between 1975 and 1983, Fishman's images provide rare glimpses into Jewish life during a period when Jews in the West had little or no access to their Polish forebears in the post-Holocaust era. His more recent images, made 30 years later upon his arrival in 2013—more than two decades after the fall of Communism—chronicle a spiritual and cultural "return to identity" that Fishman says, "would have been unthinkable before." His latest work speaks "to themes of resilience and renewal, exploring and elucidating the myriad faces and facets of recovery and re-generation" as younger generations are discovering their Jewish roots, and what it means "being Jewish."

This jointly organized exhibition is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Additional funding is provided by Joseph Alexander Foundation, the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP to 718-581-1596 or A Photo ID is required for admission.

For more information, contact Magda Teter, the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies, at 347-364-3472 or

For additional information, please visit


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