Friday, October 23, 2009

Virtual Shtetl

When you think about Jews and Poland, you probably think about death camps and ghettos. The Holocaust is definitely very much associated with these two words, but Poland's Jewish history dates back 1,000 years.

Four months ago, Albert Stankowski launched the Virtual Shtetl Web site as a homage to Jewish history in Poland, a country that once offered the community religious refuge in medieval times and later became home to the world's biggest Jewish community.

Stankowski, the son of a Holocaust survivor and a Roman Catholic Pole, likes to call the site a museum without walls—a multimedia precursor to the 2012 completion of Warsaw's long-anticipated Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The website is more treasure trove than institutional preview. Its key feature: wiki technology enabling registered users to contribute memories, documents, and photos to the bilingual (English and Polish) site. Stankowski is also integrating the Virtual Shtetl with sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. According to Stankowski, about 2,000 to 3,000 visit Virtual Shtetl daily. He expects that number to keep growing.

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