Demolition begins on Jewish Theater building in Warsaw


WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Work began on demolishing the Jewish Theater building in Warsaw.

The demolition of the building at Grzybowski Square began on Friday, but actors, staff and spectators came to the site on Saturday to say good-bye to the 50-year-old building. The demolition could last for several weeks, as it is dismantled in accordance with environmental laws.

Theater Director Golda Tencer was dropped from the membership of the Jewish Social and Cultural Society in Poland, or TSKZ, for her protests against the closure of the building and its demolition.

A new office building and skyscraper is planned to be built in the place of the theater building by the investor that bought the property more than six years ago, when the theater was forced to sell it due to financial problems. The developer has said that there will be a place in the new building for the theater.

The theater was built in the late 1960s with the financial support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. JDC could not transfer funds directly to the theater at the time because it was a state institution, but instead granted it to the association, or TSKZ, which became the owner of the building, In 2011, TSKZ sold the property to developer Ghelamco.

In June, 2016, the developer closed the building and locked out the theater, citing a decision by the district construction supervisor’s office, which called the building a threat to public safety.

“We just came to say goodbye to our house, which was built for Ida Kaminska,  the first director of this place. Here are our dybbuks, our actors whom we leave behind. It hurts terribly,” Tencer said on Saturday.

Two weeks ago Tencer received a letter from TSKZ informing her that she is no longer a member of the organization because “she was acting to the detriment of TSKZ by blocking the emergence of a new building and defaming the organization’s reputation.”

The Jewish Theater currently presents its performances in two temporary spaces in Warsaw.

Formed in 1950, the troupe is a link to the rich pre-Holocaust culture of Poland’s Yiddish-speaking Jewish community. The Jewish Theatre in Warsaw is the only theater in Poland performing in Yiddish, and one of two in Europe, including the Jewish Theater in Bucharest.