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Polish govt urged to quickly OK new Jewish museum director

WARSAW – Two co-founders of Warsaw's landmark Jewish museum on Friday urged the Polish government to consider the country's international image and accept their choice for museum director, in hope of ending a long impasse that has raised concerns over the popular institution's future.

The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been without a permanent director for nearly a year. Showcasing the 1,000-year Jewish presence in Polish lands, it is one of Poland's most-visited museums and among the world's leading Jewish museums.

The former director, Dariusz Stola, guided the museum from the opening of its permanent exhibition in 2014 until February 2019, winning it multiple international awards. He was highly valued by private museum donors, but Poland's populist government opposed him because he had criticized some of its policies.

Stola won a competition last May for a second term, but Culture Minister Piotr Glinski refused to re-appoint him, accusing him of a “very deep political commitment.”

Since last February, the museum has been run by Stola's former deputy and now acting director Zygmunt Stepinski. He, however, can only serve for a year, and his interim tenure expires Feb. 22.

The city of Warsaw and a private Jewish historical association said Stepinski has managed the museum successfully since last year and urged Minister Glinski to appoint him director. Until recently, they had fought to keep Stola but gave up after they realized the government would not budge.

Stepinski "has many years of experience in the field of management, including in the field of cultural institutions, he enjoys the trust of the team and the museum's donors and Jewish communities in Poland and abroad,” said Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski and Piotr Wislicki, the head of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute that represents private donors.

“We hope the minister will share our opinion on this candidacy and agree to his appointment,” Trzaskowski and Wislicki said.

They said they were asking Glinski to act quickly for the benefit of the museum and for the sake of “Poland's national interest, which is not served by a lengthy controversy over the nomination of the director of one of the most important cultural institutions in our country.”

A Culture Ministry spokeswoman said Friday she could not say when there would be an official decision on Stepinski's nomination.