It honors Irene Pletka, the Vice Chairman of the YIVO Board and Founder and Chairman of the Kronhill Pletka Foundation, “for her exemplary leadership, inspiring generosity, and outstanding commitment to the preservation of Jewish history and culture.”
The Foundation supports secular Jewish culture, Yiddish language, and re-emerging Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere.
Born in Shanghai to Polish-Jewish parents who were Sugihara refugees, Irene was raised in Australia. Fluent in multiple languages, she earned a degree in psychology and an MFA in photography from RISD, served as a visiting artist at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem for 20 years, and worked as a photographer, designer and, more recently, as a producer for the forthcoming film, “Who Will Write Our History?”
Irene came to YIVO almost inevitably. Her childhood Yiddish teacher in Australia was the son of one of YIVO’s founders. Her father, a lifelong member of the BUND, was a founder of the Yiddish day-school Sholem Aleichem College, as well as an activist in the Jewish community in Melbourne, Australia.
Since founding the Kronhill Pletka Foundation in 2007 and joining YIVO’s board in 2011, Irene has been an activist member of the YIVO, and of other organizations as well. She and the Foundation have supported a variety of projects in Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Venezuela, Italy, Africa, Australia, Israel and the United States. Projects as diverse as funding the re-creation of the ceiling of the 17th century painted wooden Gwozdziec synagogue, now the centerpiece of the POLIN museum in Warsaw; a Balkan Sephardi music festival, and enabling Israeli doctors to treat Syrian refugees are some examples of what the Kronhill Pletka Foundation supports.