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?
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!