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The Afterlife of a Shtetl

Apr 25 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Painting of Polish shtetl

Above: “Passover Seder at My Paternal Grandfather’s” [detail] by Mayer Kirshenblatt (1916-2009), Acrylic on canvas

Join Taube Philanthropies, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, and Berkeley Center for Jewish Studies for The Afterlife of a Shtetl.

Thursday, April 25, 2024 | 5:30-7:30pm

In person at The Magnes Collection, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA

Light refreshments will be served.

Dr. Natalia Romik, curator, architect and 2022 Dan David Prize winner, returns to the Magnes to present an exclusive preview of her vibrant new exhibition soon to premier at the POLIN Museum, in Warsaw. The exhibition, titled (post)JEWISH… The Shtetl Opatów Through the Eyes of Mayer Kirshenblatt, juxtaposes the shtetl as recalled in detail by memory artist Mayer Kirshenblatt (1934–2009) with the “post-war” town it became during and after the Holocaust. Before the Holocaust, there were thousands of shtetlekh, towns where Jews made up a significant proportion of the population or even a majority, across Eastern Europe. Today, their cemeteries, synagogues, mikves, and other communal buildings may still stand, silent witnesses to once-vibrant Jewish communities, but not a single Jew remains. How did the shtetl become a “post-Jewish” town?

Dr. Romik, co-curator of the exhibition, which opens on May 17, will present some of Kirshenblatt’s iconic works of art, based on his vivid memories of the people, events, daily norms and customs from his life in Opatów, Poland, before World War II. His paintings—full of color, imagination, and humor—show us a world that is no more. Kirshenblatt’s paintings will be exhibited at the POLIN Museum in Warsaw alongside artifacts of prewar Jewish life from the town and photographs of Opatów today, in an ingenious juxtaposition of then and now, of art and ethnography.

Following the presentation, Dr. Romik will be in conversation with Francesco Spagnolo, Curator of the Magnes and Associate Adjunct Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Music and the Center for Jewish Studies.

Taube Philanthropies is a lead sponsor of the POLIN exhibition.


If you have any questions about accessibility or require accommodations to participate in this event, please contact us at magnes@berkeley.edu or call us at (510) 643-2526 with as much advance notice as possible.

About Dr. Natalia Romik

woman with arms crossedDr. Natalia Romik is a public historian, architect, and artist. Her work focuses on Jewish memory and Holocaust commemoration in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and Ukraine. She has collaborated as a curator and exhibition designer at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. She is a winner of the 2022 Dan David Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious prizes in the field of history.



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Apr 25
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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Magnes Collection of Jewish Life and Art
2121 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94720 United States
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