"The Afterlife of a Shtetl" at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

Thursday, April 25th 2024, 5:30pm to 7:30pm
2121 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94720

The Afterlife of a Shtetl

Please join us for a special event featuring Dr. Natalia Romik for the Afterlife of Shtetl at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.

Registration Link

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.

Light refreshments will be served.


About Dr. Natalia Romik:

Dr. 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.




This event is in hosted by collaboration with the Taube Philanthropies, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley and the UC Berkeley Center for Jewish Studies. Other co-sponsors include the Magnes Museum Foundation, Riva and David Berelson, the San Francisco-Krakow Sister Cities Association, the East Bay JCC, the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, the UCB Polish Club, Israel Museum Council of Bay Area, and the Holocaust Center at Jewish Family and Children's Services.