Geneviève Zubrzycki is Professor of Sociology and director of the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, which includes the Center for European Studies, the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and the Copernicus Program in Polish Studies. Zubrzycki is also a faculty affiliate at the Frankel Center and was a Frankel Institute Fellow during the 2015-16 theme year of “Secularization & Sacralization.”

As director of the Weiser Center, she collaborates across departments to arrange symposia, workshops and exhibits. “Putting lecture series together and organizing special events is very stimulating work.  I like to work with faculty, students, staff on concrete projects. It’s very fulfilling,” commented Zubrzycki.

One example of this cooperation is the Polish-Jewish Study Initiative, which was founded in 2013 and brings together scholars from the US, Canada, Poland and Israel in annual workshops focused on some aspect of Polish-Jewish. Another example of this collaboration is the upcoming Frankel Center/CPPS event on April 2 featuring Prof. Marcin Wodzinski of University of Wrocław for a lecture titled “Space and Spirit, or How to make a Historical Atlas of Hasidism.”

Zubrzycki teaches courses on sociological theory, the sociology of religion, and the sociology of nationalism. She challenges students to think critically about what they read and hear in the news and to see the connection between those stories and what they learn in class.

Through her research and teaching, Zubrzycki has seen the importance of social sciences and the humanities up close. “Humanities allows us to get at the different meaning of social action and at the motivations of people. It doesn’t necessarily provide clear answers to problems, but allows us to pose the important questions.”

Her first book, The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland,  concerned the changing relationship between national identity and Catholicism after the fall of communism, which led her to study the problematic memory of the Holocaust in that country and the contested place of Christian symbols at Auschwitz. “When I first started working on Polish national identity in the 1990s, I was interested in whether the fall of communism would alter the place of the Catholic church in Poland,” stated Zubrzycki. “It quickly became clear that the issue of anti-Semitism and the absence of Jews in the national narrative was key to understanding Polish national identity.”

She is now completing a new book on anti and philo-Semitism in Poland. She’s found that the significant interest of non-Jewish Poles in Jewish culture is part of a broader attempt to counter the rise of right-wing nationalism. “Those Poles who are supporting the revival of Jewish communities and who actively working to recover Jewish culture, are trying to build a different kind of Poland; a more diverse, and open Poland. By promoting the cultural legacy of Polish Jews, they emphasize Poland’s multi-cultural heritage and counter claims of Catholic nationalists.”

Zubrzycki expects that book to be releases sometime in 2021.

Jewish Culture Festival Poster in Krakow, Poland