Some 80,000 Jews once called the city their home, before they were rounded up into its ghetto by the Nazi occupiers and sent to forced labor or death. The destruction of Polish Jewry marked an end not only to an ancient community but to a vast Jewish religious tradition.
The new Polish-language book Dovev Siftei Yeshenim (The Utterings of the Lips of the Sleepers), written by Krakow's Rabbi Boaz Pash, is an effort to bring back to life the voices of the city's rabbinic tradition in the place where it all happened. The book is a collection of interpretations on the weekly Torah portion written by some of the greatest rabbis Krakow ever produced.
"Everyone has heard about the rabbis and sages of Krakow, but who can quote them?" asks Pash. "What member of the current generation that is living and growing up in Poland can open their books? This book and others of its kind represent an attempt to meet that need."
The book begins with 15th century scholar Rabbi Yom Tov Milhausen, and continues with such luminaries of the Jewish bookshelf as the 16th century giant Rabbi Moshe Isserles, better known as the Rama, and the 17th-century halachist Rabbi Yoel Sirkas, the Bach.
"Poland is experiencing a renewal of Jewish culture and a demand for more information about Judaism, both in the past and present," says Pash.
Indeed, the book's publisher, the local Jewish publishing house Austeria, is part of that revival, owned by a Krakow couple who run a Jewish-themed café, bookstore and hotel. At 30 zlotys (about NIS 40), it is priced for popular consumption.
The book, like Pash's rabbinic work, are funded by the Shavey Yisrael organization, one of the groups at the forefront of the quiet rekindling of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.
"Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, more and more young Poles are rediscovering their Jewish roots and expressing a desire to draw closer to the Jewish people and the State of Israel," according to the Israel-based chairman of Shavey Yisrael, Michael Freund.
"At the same time, Jewish communal life in Poland is gradually gaining strength. We cannot turn our backs on these exciting historic developments and must do everything we can to facilitate them," Freund said in a statement announcing the publication of Dovev Siftei Yeshenim.
Shavey Yisrael has followed for years the phenomenon of lost-assimilated children of Polish Jews discovering their Jewish past and rejoining the community.
"In recent years, an increasing number of Poles - mainly members of the younger generation - have begun to rediscover their Jewish roots and reclaim the precious heritage that was so brutally taken from them," said the organization's statement.
The new book "is intended primarily for those interested in learning about the tremendous Jewish cultural richness that existed in Poland before the Holocaust, providing readers with a glimpse of the spiritual world of these rabbis," it said.