Update: Thank you for all of your support! We're amazed with how successful the Kickstarter has been so far, and are hoping to raise more than our $25,000 stated goal. We're now aiming for $30,000. The increased funding will allow us to furnish and stock the Cafe - which wasn't included in our initial goal. Can you help us get there? Every dollar we raise over the goal will be put into making Cafe Oshpitzin a warm, inviting, and delicious cafe.
The Café and Oświęcim
Oświęcim, Poland is the town you probably know as Auschwitz, which is what German speakers have always called it. It is a town of about 40,000 people and the former concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau lay 3 km from its center.
We are the Auschwitz Jewish Center, a museum, education center, and synagogue located in the town of Oświęcim. We are building Café Oshpitzin (the historic Jewish name for Oświęcim, which means “guests”) in the home of the last Jew of Oświęcim, Szymon Kluger, who died in 2000.
Café Oshpitzin will be a place for guests – a welcoming vegetarian café that uses local products and celebrates local food culture whenever possible (more info on that below). Currently, there is no place like this in Oświęcim, which has just a few pizzerias, a Turkish kebab bar, and a KFC – all fast food – not local, homemade products with the slow food approach of our café. In addition to representing local and regional culture and food, Café Oshpitzin will be a venue for dialogue and education for locals and other visitors from near and far.
We are not only building a café, we’re rebuilding a community’s image, identity, and culture. We’re building a place that will remember the past and feed the future.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (concentration camp complex) gets roughly 1.5 million visitors per year. Very few of them ever enter the town of Oświęcim to see the community that thrives there, amidst a very complex history. Café Oshpitzin will help draw these visitors to the town, giving them a better understanding of the local history and the work that we, and other groups, are doing to eradicate anti-Semitism and promote understanding for all peoples.
The Kluger House
This project will save the Kluger House, which is in serious danger of collapse. Szymon Kluger returned home after surviving the war. He was scarred by the war and, at the end of his life, couldn’t take care of himself. His neighbors helped him: local women brought him food and an area policeman looked in on him to make sure he was safe. Café Oshpitzin will be the Kluger family’s legacy. The renovation will maintain the soul of his home and its unique character as much as possible. The funds for the outer construction have, thankfully, been raised. The Café, though, is still unfunded.
Our work to save the Kluger House and the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, which is part of the Center, has been highlighted in some recent press, including pieces by The Huffington Post, NBC World News, and Polish TVN24.
How will my contribution help?
The funds raised through this campaign, together with matching funds from private donors and government support, will allow us to transform the Kluger House into Café Oshpitzin. Every dollar will help. Our $25,000 goal represents the renovation necessary to turn this decrepit house into a vibrant café.
What kind of local products and foods will you offer?
We’re going to offer a variety of local products and foods, including:
- Homemade cakes from local recipes, such as cheesecake, apple cake, and pischinger, a chocolate wafer cake;
- Local breads with regional cheeses like oscypek (salty, smoked sheep’s cheese) and bryndza (fresh, spreadable sheep’s cheese);
- Locally grown vegetables for salads and sandwiches;
- Handmade (really good!) local chocolates;
- Jurajska beverages, made in the region;
- Cieszyn beers, brewed an hour away from Oświęcim; and
- Fair Trade teas, coffees, and hot chocolate.
Can you exceed your goal?
Yes, and we certainly hope to!
Can you accept donations from outside the USA?
Yes. Once you click on the Amazon Payment Button, you will see that you can pay with a credit card from any country. Please remember that you must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Are donations tax deductible?
Yes! The AJC is a charitable tax-exempt organizations pursuant to section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are tax-deductible.
You’re located in both New York and Poland?
Yes, we were founded by a group of New Yorkers and have administrative offices in New York City. We’re an affiliate of New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The Center itself is located in Oświęcim, Poland.
How will the café be a place for dialogue?
The café will be a place for both formal and informal dialogue. Currently, there are few places where both tourists and locals gather. The café will be a destination point that will bring these groups together for conversation and informal interactions – a place to unwind beyond the shadow of Auschwitz’s history. On a formal level, the Auschwitz Jewish Center will host public discussion programs in the new, beautiful setting.
Risks and challenges
Every project has risks and challenges. We’ve done what we can to mitigate ours, including having the town of Oświęcim on our side, local staff running the Center and the renovation of the Kluger House, and securing the Kluger House’s neighbors support on the project, but there are still challenges. We’re incredibly fortunate to have the support of the town of Oświęcim and local community leaders, as well as the neighbors who will be (literally!) by our side during the renovation. We have a lot of experience in community building and more than 12 years experience in the community of Oświęcim, but we do not have experience running a cafe. To help us with café experience, we’re lucky to have food and beverage professionals advising us on our Board.
If setbacks arise, we’ll tackle them the way we’ve tackled every other setback in our 12 years of experience with the Auschwitz Jewish Center – with careful planning and a thoughtful approach, keeping our purpose and mission in mind, and asking for advice and help from our capable and experienced supporters.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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