The "Preserving Memory" Award, founded in 1998 to honor non-Jewish Poles who preserve, promote, and care for Jewish heritage, marks its 20th edition this year. The awards were established by the American lawyer Michael Traison, who spends part of the year in Poland. Over the years more than 200 people, mostly volunteers and mostly from small, far-flung towns, have been honored for activities ranging from cleaning up Jewish cemeteries to running Jewish museums to carrying out school projects on Jewish history and memory.
This year's ceremony will be held in Krakow on July 25. The latest awards will honor seven Poles from around the country and will also present a special award to American Steven D. Reece, the founder and director of The Matzevah Foundation (TMF), an organization that restores Jewish cemeteries, cares for mass graves sites, and conducts educational activities.
Reece, who established The Matzevah Foundation (TMF) in 2010, for many years has worked to care for Jewish cemeteries in Poland, along with groups of American Baptist volunteers. Projects have incuded cleaning the cemetery in Otwock in 2005 and then, until 2008, five more graveyards in the Mazovia region. In 2010 he founded The Matzevah Foundation (TMF). TMF cooperates with the Rabbinical Commission for Jewish Cemeteries in Poland and the Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.
In a Have Your Say op-ed that we published in December 2016, Reece wrote how the idea of reconciliation underlies his involvement and how the process of restoration and renovation of Jewish cemeteries is, from his perspective, closely bound with reestablishment of interreligious relationships.
The Preserving Memory awards to Poles this year go to:
Nieradko has been working with the Rabbinical Commission for Jewish Cemeteries in Poland since 2009, collecting testimonies from Holocaust witnesses, mapping the mass graves of Holocaust victims, and educating youth and adults. She currently collaborates with the Jewish Historical Institute for a research project on less er-known aspects of the Holocaust, which includes field study in lomza, Zambr6w and Kolno counties. Agnieszka Nieradko is also co-founder of Fundacja Zapomniane. Her activities are crucial for unraveling the processes of the Holocaust in Polish countryside: through reaching the last surviving witnesses, her research makes it possible to recon struct the course of mass executions, establish the identities of victims, and to map and commemorate the exact locations of the mass graves that are scattered across the country in fields, forests and private property.
Rev. Marian Bronikowski
From the beginning of his pastoral service in 1988, Bronikowski's work has been connected with the Sieradz area, where he has served in several parishes. Since May 2006 he has been parson of the All Saints Parish in Sieradz, and prelate of the church elders council at Collegiate Church in Sieradz; since 2009 he has been Bishop's Vicar for the Sieradz region. Bronikowski has been involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue and cooperation for many years. On a regular basis he organizes the Day of Judaism in his parish, and works with the Jewish community of Lodz. Through cultural events (exhibitions and concerts) and educational activities, he enables his parishioners to get to know Judaism and the Jewish roots of Christianity. The Polish Council of Jews and Christians has awarded him for his work.
A diplomat, scholar, and lecturer, Rejak is the author of the book "Jewish Identities in Poland and America: The Impact of the Shoah on Religion and Ethnicity," and co-author of "Inferno of Choices: Poles and the Holocaust." He has worked for years as Special Envoy of Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs for Relations with the Jewish Diaspora, cultivating relations between Poland and Jewish communities throughout Europe and North America, and fostering dialogue and mutual understanding.
A historian and researcher of Jewish history in Czestochowa, Paszkowski works at the Museum of Czestochowa in the department of historical research, and is a member of the editorial team for the album "Zydzi cz stochowianie". For more than 14 years he has conducted research on Czestochowa's Jewish cemetery and worked to promote knowledge about this place and the people buried there. His efforts have positively influenced perceptions of local Jewish history, and the presence of Jewish heritage in the memories of the city's contemporary residents. For years, Paszkowski has collaborated with the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel and other organizations, documenting the Jewish cemetery and its history and working on educational and commemorative projects.
A historian, activist, and researcher interested in local history and in the history of minorities. For many years he has been involved in the struggle to preserve and respect the Jewish heritage of Janow Lubelski and its surrounding area. He has often faced indifferent or even hostile reactions in his local community. Together with an Israeli association of Jews originating from Janow Lubelski, he works to commemorate local victims of the Holocaust, to mark sites of Jewish history, and to maintain the Jewish cemetery. He organizes and co-organizes conferences, lectures, and walking tours focusing on local history.
A filmmaker, cinematographer, screenwriter, and lecturer in art schools in Poland and abroad who has ties with Warsaw and Puhusk. In Puhusk he has documented visits of Israeli youth, and together with his daughter created a film on this subject. He maintains close relationships with Holocaust survivors from Puhusk now living in Israel. and makes efforts to preserve memories of Jewish past.
A local historian, activist, and member of the Bedzin town council. Since 2003, he has devoted his energies to the preservation and commemoration of Jewish history and material heritage in the Bedzin area, while fostering and promoting Polish-Jewish dialogue and education. Among his achievements are publications, exhibitions, public commemorative ceremonies, and restoration projects.
The awards ceremony is organized by the Michael H. Traison Fund for Poland, the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, the Jewish Community Center JCC Krakow, Hotel Eden, University of Haifa, Emile Karafiol. and the Crown Family Philantropies.