CZESTOCHOWA, Poland - In a tribute to the rich Jewish history of the city that houses Poland's most sacred Roman Catholic shrine, an exhibition opened yesterday documenting the 40,000-strong Jewish community that flourished there until the Holocaust.

"The Jews of Czestochowa," housed in a gallery just below the renowned Jasna Gora monastery, aims to tell the story of Jewish life dating back to 1618 in the southern city.

The city was once known throughout Europe as "a place of thriving coexistence," according to Alan M. Silberstein, one of two U.S. businessmen with roots in Czestochowa who organized and funded the show. Silberstein's parents were among an estimated 6,000 Czestochowa Jews to survive the Holocaust. Today, just 37 Jews live in the city.

"It's important in its Christian connections because of Jasna Gora, but it's important in the Jewish tradition, as well - not as a religious place, but as a place where Jews of all religious and political stripes thrived," he said.

Organizers assembled artifacts including Yiddish-language newspapers from the 1920s and 1930s, photos of Zionist youth groups and Nazi banners warning Jews to remain in the city ghetto or face the death penalty.