The Virtual Shtetl - the website of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is the only project in the world that aims at describing all the Jewish communities that have lived within the ever-changing borders of the Polish Commonwealth. There were about 3,000 of them and they varied as much as the histories of different parts of the vast territory that is now part of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova and Russia.
The significance of The Virtual Shtetl cannot be overestimated. The project is a pioneering and inspirational step forward in teaching about an extremely important element of the long and vibrant history of Polish Jews.
Since its launch, on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, the Virtual Shtetl has collected descriptions of nearly two thousand villages, and these presentations reached more than nine million Readers. The first owner of the website was the Jewish Historical Institute Association. As from June 29, 2012 it has been run by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
Here we have a unique tool and place for exchanging thoughts and experiences. Barriers in access to and sharing of knowledge have disappeared. Thanks to the Virtual Shtetl project and the general access to the Internet, young people, students and residents of even the smallest localities can learn about and explore the so far unknown history.
Today we are one of the largest Polish historiographical websites, and at the same time the only source of various information on current issues and achievements of Polish Jews. Although there is still a lot of work ahead of us - we are constantly evolving and improving so as to fulfil the mission of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews as well as we can.
For me, the Ambassador of the United States in Poland, the strengthening relations between Poland and the United States is one of the most important goals. Ten million Americans have Polish roots, and many of them are Jews. It is a fact that two-thirds of American Jews are of Polish origin. They start to learn more about their past even before they set out on a journey to Poland. The Virtual Shtetl proves to be an excellent facility in this respect. I strongly encourage you to have a look at this website. It is really worth it.
Lee A. Feinstein