My Life: Jonathan Ornstein

Jonathan Ornstein is the director of the Jewish Community Centre, which was opened to much fanfare by Prince Charles nearly two years ago. Hailing from New York City, Jonathan has made Krakow his home, and before his role as JCC director he lectured in Modern Hebrew at the Jagiellonian University’s Department of Jewish Studies for six years and founded the “Gesher” association for Polish–Israeli dialogue.

Krakow Post: If you could live anywhere in Krakow, where would it be, and why?

Jonathan Ornstein: I would live right where I live now, in Kazimierz, or perhaps in Podgórze near the river. My absolute dream though would be to live in the coolest building in Krakow: Hotel Forum.

KP: If you were crowned king of Krakow, what would be your first move?

JO: An immediate ban on new shopping centres. If Cracovians do all their shopping in the malls, the Old Town will cease to be the true heart of Krakow and will turn into a place locals avoid and only tourists visit, like Prague. God knows none of us want to live in Prague.

KP: What’s one place tourists can’t miss when in Krakow?

JO: The Rynek, Kazimierz, and of course the beautiful JCC. Outside of Krakow, I love going to Wieliczka and licking the walls.

KP: Is there anything that’s overrated about Krakow?

JO: Obwarzanki.

KP: If you had to erect a statue to any Cracovian, dead or alive, who would it be?

JO: How about a statue of King Kazimierz the Great and his Jewish lover Esterka? It would be a nice symbol of close Polish-Jewish relations.

KP: What are some of your regular eating and drinking haunts in the city?

JO: Working in Kazimierz, I spend a lot of time in the pubs on Plac Nowy. I like Kolory during the day, Mechanoff in the evening and Singer at that time when you really should be asleep at home. Nowy Prowincja is great for hot chocolate in the winter. My favourite restaurant is, without question, Al Dente, I eat there once or twice a week. The best pizza in Poland.

KP: What’s your biggest annoyance about living in Krakow?

JO: A tie. The lack of decent ethnic restaurants and the stag parties.

KP: Where do you go to escape for the weekend?

JO: To be honest, I have a hard time escaping from Kazimierz. A weekend escape for me is the Rynek!

KP: What’s the best place to enjoy the sun in Krakow?

JO: On the grassy slope leading down to the Wisła across from Hotel Forum.

KP: Finally: pierogi or nalesniki?

JO: Pierogi ruskie!

2 thoughts on “My Life: Jonathan Ornstein

  • March 10, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Hello Jonathan. I was in the centre very briefly yesterday and we had a chat. I am now back in Leeds after my 60 hours in Krakow. Not really enough to understand everything and many questions to ask!. I did leave feeling that the Jewish soul was missing from the streets, shops and restaurants and Jewish Krakow to me felt more of a museum. But I know that it is early days. After my first visit to Berlin last April, I can imagine Krakow developing more in that direction…..many Israelis now living there and a huge Jewish revival.
    You told me that you are due to visit Birmingham. It would have been great if you could have fitted in Leeds… the 3rd largest city in England with.a sizeable Jewish population. You might have seen from my card that I am a tour guide for the whole of Yorkshire and I do Jewish tours of York. Maybe we will meet again….I certainly would like to spend more time in Krakow and come with my husband next time. Kind regards. Joy

  • March 10, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Hello Jonathan. Was pleased to meet you yesterday during my 65 hour stay in Krakow. Not enough time to get to grips with everything and certainly many questions I would like to have asked.
    It is a pity that you are not able to visit Leeds when you come to Birmingham. Leeds is England’s 3rd largest city with a sizeable Jewish population.
    You may have noticed from my card that I am a Yorkshire tour guide. I do Jewish tours of York ( see the Clifford Tower Massacre ). I lived in Italy, Spain and France and so am pretty well travelled. But I don’t know Poland and will certainly return to Krakow for a longer period in the future. My husband would love it…he has been working this week. He does a lot of work for CST ( security ) here in Leeds.
    I hope that we might meet again one of these days .

    Kind regards.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *