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The origins of Jewish Studies at the Jagiellonian University are connected with the founding of the Research Center on History and Culture of Jews in Poland on 1 October 1986, following a resolution passed by the Jagiellonian University Senate. The Research Center’s opening event was an international conference entitled The Autonomy of Jews in the Nobles’ Republic of Poland [Autonomia Żydów w Rzeczypospolitej szlacheckiej], held in September 1986. It was the first major meeting of scholars specializing in Jewish Studies from France, Israel, Poland, the US and Great Britain after World War II.

The objectives which underscored the founding of the Research Center on History and Culture of Jews in Poland were presented in the inauguration lecture by the Rector of the time and subsequent long-time Director of the Center, Prof. Józef Andrzej Gierowski. He stated that: “there are many prejudices and ambiguities associated with the history of Jewish people in Poland, also due to insufficient research on the subject. Therefore, the time has come for thorough and diligent research on the past of the Jewish community with a view to presenting the history of mutual interference in an unbiased and unemotional way.”

On 1 November 2000, the Chair in Jewish Studies was established at the Jagiellonian University, as a result of the reorganization of the Research Center on the History and Culture of Jews in Poland. The Director of the Chair and (following the transformation) of the Institute of Jewish Studies (until 2016) was Prof. dr hab. Edward Dąbrowa.

The Institute of Jewish Studies was established on 1 October 2012, pursuant to the Ordinance of the Rector of the Jagiellonian University dated 13 March 2012, concerning the transformation of the Chair in Jewish Studies into an institute. This transformation coincided with the introduction of new and pioneering BA and MA programs in the 2012/2013 academic year: Jewish Studies (in Polish: Judaistyka).

Between the years 2016-2020, the director of the Institute was Dr hab. Michał Galas, prof UJ. Currently, the Institute is headed by Prof. dr hab. Adam Kaźmierczyk.

The first home of the Chair in Jewish Studies (until 2010) was a building on ul. Batorego 12 which formerly housed the studio of the architect Tadeusz Stryjeński. The Institute of Jewish Studies now occupies a much larger premises in the historical building of Collegium Kazimierzowskie in the Kazimierz District (Kraków, ul. Józefa 19), the old Jewish quarter of Kraków.