Erica LehrerMay 1, 2018
Jewish Poland Revisited
Heritage Tourism in Unquiet Places
Indiana University Press 2013
Sometime in the very early 1990s, while I was in grad school, I got a call from a student at Grinnell College, where I myself had graduated asking me about studying Poland. It was an engaging chat with a young woman very interested in exploring Poland and the relationship between Poles and Jews in contemporary Poland. Erica Lehrer's Jewish Poland Revisited: Heritage Tourism in Unquiet Places (Indiana University Press, 2013) is the flower of that research, and it has been worth the wait. In the popular imagination, one of the most common tropes about contemporary Poland is that it is a land where Anti-Semitism thrives without any Jews. Sadly, the current PiS government’s policies regarding Polish history have only reinforced that judgment, but the story is much more complex, and in fact the first two decades of the post-Communist order saw a revival of interest in Jewish culture among Poles. At the same time, the end of Communism has also made traveling to Poland less daunting, with Jewish travelers among those eager to make sense of their heritage. Erica's book is a thoughtful exploration of these phenomena. Through the book we learn about a wide variety of heritage tourism from group tours for young Jews where the Holocaust and the inhospitality of Poland to Jews is the focus to individuals who are captivated and intrigued by the complexity of the lengthy history of Polish and Jewish relations. At the same time we are introduced to Poles who have become stewards of Jewish culture as well as Poles who have rediscovered their own Jewish heritage. It is a fascinating book that is all the more important to read right now. It was a pleasure to talk to Erica Lehrer about her book.