We’re used to a certain kind of Jewish nostalgia for the old country and the relative simplicity of shtetl life, but nobody’s really serious about going back there.
Not exactly. Since 2007, Israeli media artist Yael Bartana has been developing the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, a multifaceted project that includes films, a manifesto, and even a 2012 conference, all of which call for Jews to “stun Europe” by “returning” to Poland.
In one of the films, a young, left-wing Polish intellectual calls out to a stadium: “Jews! Fellow countrymen! People! You think the old woman who still sleeps under Rivke’s quilt doesn’t want to see you? Has forgotten about you? You’re wrong. She dreams about you every night…Return to Poland, to your country! Stand by her bed and lay your hands on that old quilt.”
We may never know if we are meant to take JRMiP’s call seriously, or if this is all an elaborate, ironic art project. But if it’s geared toward raising questions, it’s certainly succeeding. For starters, what would Poland make of a massive influx of Jews? Would Warsaw start selling better falafel?