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Visiting Exhibit: Roots, Resilience and Renewal – A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975-2016

Photographs by Chuck Fishman. Now on display at the Yiddish Book Center.

In 1975, the young photographer Chuck Fishman traveled to Poland to photograph what he has described “was then a dwindling remnant of a once-vibrant Jewish community on the brink of extinction.” Returning several times between 1975 and 1983, Fishman’s images provide rare glimpses into Jewish life during a period when Jews in the West had little or no access to their Polish forebears in the post-Holocaust era. Believing his photographs would bear witness to the final days of Jews in Poland, he could not have envisioned, thirty years later, the astonishing rebirth of a people that had inhabited its lands for 1,000 years. His return to Poland in 2013 chronicles a spiritual and cultural “return to identity” that Fishman says “would have been unthinkable before.” His latest work speaks “to themes of resilience and renewal, exploring and elucidating the myriad faces and facets of recovery and re-generation.” Describing the most recent images, Fishman has written:

“Each and every subject manifests a collective tapestry of his/her cultural inheritance, offering a rare perspective into this exceptional moment in time: from Poles raised as Catholics, discovering hidden Jewish roots, to children and grandchildren in search of their pasts, transforming families, and reshaping futures with the question: what does it mean, “being Jewish?” The answer—often, ”it’s complicated”—is one that the passing of four decades has radically changed.”

Chuck Fishman Photograph

About the Artist

In his 40-year career, freelance photographer Chuck Fishman has focused on social and political issues with a strong humanistic concern.

His work has been extensively published, exhibited and collected worldwide, and has earned him prestigious World Press Photo Foundation medals four times.

His photographs have appeared on the covers of Time, Life, Fortune, Newsweek, The London Sunday Times, The Economist and numerous others, and have been selected for publication in the American Photography and Communication Arts juried annuals. Fishman’s work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; the United Nations; POLIN The Museum of the History of Polish Jews; The Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona; The Studio Museum in Harlem; and Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University, among many others, as well as in private and corporate collections.

Made possible through the generous support of the Brechner Family.