On the 29th of January, the building of Jewish Community Center in Kraków, located in the city’s old Jewish district, just next to the Tempel Synagogue, filled with the mixed crowd of locals and expats. Dozens of entrepreneurs, investors, and people passionate about business showed up for the launch of the JCC Kraków’s Entrepreneurship Club.

Supported by the members of the JCC Kraków and local start-up community leaders including Paul Kulon from the largest Kraków community #omgkrk, the event generated an amazing turnout and very positive feedback. Many of the attendees were foreigners who live and work in Kraków, with people from France, Italy, Ukraine, Armenia, the UK or even as far as from Buenos Aires.

Open-minded, energetic people

Among the attendees was Dalila Rubinstein, a 29 year old Argentinian, who came to Kraków a year ago. She has Polish-Jewish roots and her family moved to Argentina in the ‘20s. “I came here to meet open-minded, energetic people. I believe that together we can build something great” – shared Dalila.

Dalila and other attendees appreciated the open format of the event, and how quickly the icebreakers led to networking and open discussion about the future shape of the club. The short presentations included guests and co-organizers who talked about the local communities scene, the importance of building entrepreneurial spirit, about finding Jewish roots and about the Kraków IT landscape.

All participants believed they can contribute to the group by providing mentoring sessions or by sharing their expertise with others. They also talked about how they would like to benefit from this club. Attendees mentioned meeting open minded people, listening to interesting speakers, finding business partners, clients or vendors, getting mentorship, making contact with international entrepreneurs and investors as well as finding people to recruit and getting inspiration.

The Jewish future in Kraków

Krakow’s Jewish Community Centre (JCC) opened in 2008 with financial support from World Jewish Relief, a London-based charity, and other partners. For the last ten years, the center was primarily focusing on providing community services to the people of Jewish ancestry or interested in Jewish heritage. With the its 650 members, including 70 Holocaust survivors, and others who live in Kraków and discovered their Jewish roots, the student club Hillel, it focuses on reviving Jewish live Kraków.

“Building a Jewish future in Kraków is our primary goal,” JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein said . “However, our work is not only about building a Jewish future, but also about contributing to the broader Krakow community. With its almost 200,000 students, network of expat communities, flourishing IT scene, and over 12 million visitors each year, Kraków provides an ideal environment for engaging the public. We want to be open to every person in the city—to animate, educate, inspire, entertain, and build connections between Krakowian entrepreneurs from within the Jewish community and without.”

Kraków, a city of opportunities.

Jonathan couldn’t be more right. Over the last 15 years, the city transformed itself to become a prime software engineering location in Central Europe, and a shared services capital of the continent. Its start-up scene grows dynamically, and more and more foreigners choose to live here. Literally 100’s of foreign companies establish their offices in Kraków hoping to attract the young and well-educated Poles.

“I’ve been building communities in Kraków for the last 25 years” says Richard Lucas, a businessman and Entrepreneurship Community leader, who has lived in Kraków since 1991 and has engaged in the launch of the JCC’s new initiative. “You cannot overestimate the value of the communities like this one to the growth of the entrepreneurial spirit in the city.”

The team behind the club sees the launch at the first step in building a unique community. They want it to become a key actor in bridging the Polish and Jewish businesses as well as a contributor to the promotion of entrepreneurship in Kraków and the growth of Kraków entrepreneurship landscape.

The community plans to organize monthly meetups, but it also intends to reach out to the Jewish visitors to Kraków as well as Jewish entrepreneurs abroad to enrich the local community. It wants to be a place to trade knowhow and inspiration with other entrepreneurs, to expand base of clients and supplies, develop a network of like-minded individuals, and to meet with visiting Israeli and Jewish entrepreneurs and investors.

 

Michał Piątkowski is a member of the JCC Kraków and a volunteer-leader of the the Entrepreneurs Club. He is also a founder of a consulting company MOTIFE (https://motifedigital.com) that helps foreign tech companies establish their presence in Poland.