Roots, Resilience, Renewal: A Portrait of Polish-Jewish Generations, Lost and Found
“Roots, Resilience, Renewal” draws upon Chuck Fishman’s first book, Polish Jews: The Final Chapter (1977), and represents a project spanning 40 years and four generations—from the near-demise to the transformative rebirth of Polish Jewry. From 1975-83, Fishman traveled to Poland to photograph what was then a dwindling remnant of a once-vibrant Jewish community on the very brink of extinction. These early images, considered rare and historically unique, chronicle what remained of life in the post-’68/pre-’89 era—much of which is left to memory—modest kosher kitchens, prayer services and seders, synagogues and cemeteries, in ruin and in use. These serve as notable counterpoints to Fishman’s work as it illuminates and defines Jewish “return” to identity today. In 2013, he returned after a 30-year hiatus to witness and document a stunning reversal of history, a Jewish cultural renaissance emerging and expanding into the mainstream of 21st-century society. Fishman’s latest work has produced compelling pictures of spiritual and cultural rebirth that would have been unthinkable before, speaking to themes of resilience and renewal, exploring and elucidating the myriad faces and facets of recovery and re-generation. New elements of Polish Jewish life, the surfacing of “unexpected” generations, are presenting the extraordinary challenge, and opportunity, to revisit what was, by all accounts, an epilogue in Jewish history, and set it into a new historical context.
Chuck Fishman is an award-winning photographer whose work has been extensively published, exhibited, and collected worldwide. He has been awarded the prestigious World Press Photo Foundation Medal four times. His photographs have appeared on the covers of Time, Life, Fortune, Newsweek, The London Sunday Times, The Economist, and numerous other publications. His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; the United Nations; POLIN 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, to name a few, as well as in private and corporate collections.