web analytics
December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Young, Hidden Polish Jews Discover Heritage in Israel

While most surviving Jews left Poland after a brief return to search for relatives, some remained.
1174984_10152200123208636_1963130279_n

Photo Credit: Shavei Israel

Shavei Israel, an Israeli organization dedicated to discovering hidden Jewish communities and lost Jews, recently brought 16 Polish Jews to Israel to rediscover their Jewish identity. Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, explained, “In Poland, in most people’s eyes, to be Polish means Catholic. In Poland, the sense of identity is very much linked to religion, so when a person discovers he is Jewish or has Jewish ancestry, it comes as a shock to people. They become outsiders. It can be traumatic.”

During the Holocaust, 90 percent of Polish Jewry was murdered, decimating the 3 to 3.5 million Jews that lived in Poland on the eve of the Nazi invasion, leaving only 350,000 alive by war’s end. While most surviving Jews left Poland after a brief return to search for relatives, some remained. Due to communist rule and memories of the Holocaust, many hid their Jewish identity. Today, there are many communities with “hidden Jews,” who are disconnected from their Jewish roots and ancestry.

“There are people who suspect they might have Jewish roots and want to know yet don’t change their live styles. Others could return to Judaism or pursue a secular journey to learn about Jewish culture. We are talking about a human phenomenon, so different people react different,” Freund explained. “Some of them become religious Jews and do a conversion, while others are struggling with their new identity and are trying to figure out what to make of it and how it should impact their life. One thing that unites them is that they all want to learn more about their heritage and want to see the land of their ancestors.”

Some hidden Jews grew up as Catholic, the children of Jews who converted while hiding in Catholic orphanages. Others were raised without religion playing any role in their lives. According to Freund, “One young man [in this group of 16] who began to get interested in his family genealogy and then at the same time took a DNA test discovered that he has Jewish background. That combined with documents he found convinced him he has Jewish ancestry. He was even able to locate distant cousins in the US that are Jewish. This prompted him to study more about Judaism. He converted and became religiously observant.”

Most of the 16 Jews in this group, however, are at an earlier stage in their journey. “In many other cases, they have a grandparent who revealed it to them or are people who don’t know for sure, since their family will not discuss it with them,” said Freund.  Their suspicion grew out of their lack or church attendance or extended family. “They have relatives who refuse [to speak about it] and that fuels their speculation even more.”

Freund believes that roots are powerful. “When we walk the streets of Jerusalem, the trees are uneven and the roots have spread out and lifted the rocks up. If that is true of a tree, how much more so of a human being! Sometimes they burst upwards to show they are still there. More people through out Poland are discovering and embracing their Jewish roots. They are trying to go home.”

Visit United with Israel.

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Young, Hidden Polish Jews Discover Heritage in Israel”

  1. winhipley says:

    so how do you make aliyah if you are a grandchild of a jewish grandparent? As right of return you can make aliyah but have to prove they lead a jewish life. What if you proved they lived a jewish life all the way up until they were 40 but that still isnt good enough? THey say they want the jewish people to come home yet they do there hardest to make sure they dont!!

  2. winhipley says:

    So how do you make aliyah if you are a grandchild of a jewish grandparent? As right of return you can make aliyah but have to prove they lead a jewish life. What if you proved they lived a jewish life all the way up until they were 40 but that still isnt good enough? THey say they want the jewish people to come home yet they do there hardest to make sure they dont!!

  3. God is greater. You will all come to Israel including ourselves to look for the roots.

  4. Yechiel Baum says:

    Welcome home achenu. Sorry we did not find you sooner.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

UWI blog logo
Current Top Story
Brandeis University junior Khadijah Lynch who tweeted she has "no sympathy" for slain NYPD officers, shown here on "Wake Up With Tayla Andre, "Dec. 24, 2014.
A War of Words (Some More Accurate Than Others) at Brandeis
Latest Blogs Stories
Diogenes searching for an "Honest Man"

Corruption accusations are commonplace in Israeli politics, defining it’s political landscape.

Game of Groans

The Likud falls in the Center where Bibi wants it. But how many voters want a parve/neutral party?

Doug Goldstein

Marketing isn’t only about selling a product, the “power of eventually” will help you to succeed.

My stairs had been built, big and strong-BUT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE APARTMENT!

Is his article satire? Or does Kai Bird really think Tzipi Livni heads a “center-right” party?

Much as I’d like to see the Jewish nation fully observant forcing Shabbat on people is NOT the way.

Loyalty seems to be a lost trait in Israeli politics, whether it’s to ideals, principles or parties.

Apartment hunting is kinda like dating: You go see anything that looks right on paper-and pray.

Latest headlines say that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud may only make third place if…

What are the roles of leadership and communication in running a “tight ship”?

Sabraman: Israel’s first superhero, combining the courage of the Sabra and the faith of Abraham.

Is Haredi open-ended learning on charity better than earning a living that would obviate that?

Hanuka is the miracle of emunah- belief in the L-rd of Israel and the light of our faith.

Limiting Jewish success and revival is that the anti-Jewish, anti-History Left rules here in Israel

The crisis in Jewish education is of existential importance. How should it be resolved?

More Articles from Rachel Avraham
Lefèvre-Desforges_Judith_coupant_la_tête_d'Holopherne

Jewish communities worldwide commemorate Yehudit during Chanukah by eating dairy foods in her honor

640px-Flag_of_Jordan.svg

In Jordan,Palestinians are discriminated in every field: education; healthcare; employment; business

Living is Israel is costlier than in other countries but how will your kids grow up in the diaspora?

Given these statistics, I feel that it is not worth it to live in the United States.

Pro-Israel groups must broaden their coalitions and feature more pro-Israel minority speakers.

Mahmoud Abbas tortured prisoners in PA custody and oppressed critical bloggers and journalists.

None of us support violence and we found out about the story in the media, just like every one else.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/young-hidden-polish-jews-discover-heritage-in-israel/2013/08/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: