In Israel, a new five month scholarship program being offered to young aspiring athletes – one of them could be you.
Gradually but energetically, the circle of worshipers made its way around the interior of Krakow’s medieval Rema synagogue, their voices rising ever more forcefully in song and prayer.
Stirred on by the inspiring Sabbath melodies, they joined hands and thrust their feet forward in unison, filling the space with a dynamic, yet gentle, passion.
“Merciful Father, draw Your servant closer to Your will,” they sang, as the words of the 16th-century Yedid Nefesh hymn cascaded throughout the room. “Illuminate the world with Your glory, that we may rejoice,” they chanted.
Just as Jews have been doing for centuries, the celebrants welcomed the figurative Sabbath bride with a mixture of pomp and elation.
But this was no ordinary Friday night service.
Over 70 years ago, this city had been captured by the Nazis, who mercilessly ransacked it and hunted down local Jews with the aim of erasing the name of Israel from under the heavens.
But recently, that name was alive and well in the Rema synagogue’s sanctuary, as some 150 “hidden Jews” from across Poland gathered to reclaim the precious heritage that is rightfully theirs.
They were in Krakow to attend a special seminar convened by Shavei Israel, the organization I chair, to enable them to reconnect with their roots.
Indeed, something special is taking place in Poland these days. Against all odds, a nascent revival is underway, as increasing numbers of Poles are rediscovering their Jewish roots and looking for ways to rejoin our people.
Some were raised as Catholics, only to learn later in life that their biological parents or grandparents were Jews. Others knew they were Jewish, but chose to hide their identity because of their families’ experiences under Nazism and Communism.
There is Jacek, a young man in his early 20s from the city of Wroclaw, who first learned he was Jewish just a few years ago.
One evening, while watching a television program about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict together with his mother, she offhandedly said to him, “now you know why my nose is so large.”
The news struck him like a thunderbolt, particularly since he knew that his maternal great-grandfather had been a German who had served in the Wehrmacht during World War II. Nonetheless, his great-grandfather had married a Jewess, meaning that Jacek’s grandmother, mother – and, yes, Jacek too, – are all Jewish according to Jewish law.
He now proudly wears a large Star of David around his neck and attends synagogue regularly.
Then there is Esther, a young woman from Krakow, who only learned of her family’s Jewishness last summer, when her maternal grandmother lay on her deathbed and told her the shocking news.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, and Poland’s embrace of democracy, people feel freer to delve into their past, and to express themselves as Jews.
And so, after two or even three generations in which untold numbers of Polish Jews sought to hide their identity, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have now started to come back.
Can anyone possibly doubt the eternity of Israel?
As the Friday night service in the Rema synagogue continued, I thought of how, just an hour away, to the west of Krakow, stands the death camp of Auschwitz. It was there that part of my family, along with millions of other holy Jews, were so cruelly murdered by the Germans and their henchmen. And my heart began to sink.
But then I looked around me and watched in awe as the reawakened remnants of Polish Jewry recited an impassioned version of the Lecha Dodi prayer.
“Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come,” they intoned, “awake, awake and utter a song, for the glory of the Lord is upon you.”
The “hidden Jews” of Poland are truly awakening, and it is incumbent upon us to help them. We must reach out to them and encourage them, and restore them to our people.
In Ezekiel, Chapter 37, God promised to bring life to the dry bones of His people Israel, saying: “I will open your graves and bring you up from them and I will bring you back to the land of Israel . I will put my spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.”
Seven decades after the Holocaust, we are privileged to be witnessing the fulfillment of this verse. These bones are coming to life once again, as the Jewish spirit within burns ever brighter.
Our task now is to open the door and welcome them back as they finally make the long journey home.
Michael Freund, whose Jewish Press-exclusive column ordinarily appears the third week of each month (this month being an obvious exception), served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999. He is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.
About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.
You must log in to post a comment.
How far the PA will go to present the lie as the truth and the truth as a lie? Its claim that Jesus was a Palestinian is old hat. But now the “resurrection” also refers to “the Palestinian state.”
The progressive consolidation imagines that organization can contain the messier side of man.
The Russian Yakhont missiles already delivered to Syria threaten Israel Navy ships carrying out vital missions in the Mediterranean.
America could be said to be building a united front against Iran, but at what price?
The Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam.
Palestinian youths from Hebron, though, who met with Israelis near Bethlehem to share their problems and insights have been forced to issue a statement distancing themselves from the meeting.
Benghazi isn’t likely to keep Hillary out of the Democratic field in 2016, but after 2008, she is justifiably paranoid.
The contractors received the land at a bargain basement price, moved the prices up to 1.8 million NIS and pocketed one million NIS per apartment.
Many of my fellow college students are quick to voice their acceptance of their LGBT friends, but they turn up their noses and frown slightly when they speak of a Hasid.
The growing revelations that the Obama State Department watered down public statements on the attack in order to cleanse them of any mention of al Qaeda and terrorism is a travesty.
We must confront Islamist groups with what Prime Minister David Cameron referred to as “muscular liberalism.”
Al-Qaradawi’s visit and statements also serve as a reminder that the Israeli-Arab conflict is centered, more than ever, around religion.
Everyone who reads newspapers should know at least one thing. Threats to annihilate Israel have always been unremarkable. Almost never, it seems, have Israel’s existential enemies sought any reason for concealment.
Mark Treyger, a candidate for city council in New York City’s 47th council district, met recently with the editorial board of The Jewish Press at the newspaper’s Boro Park office.
Israel’s government did not want to liberate Jerusalem. Or to be more specific, the Labor and National Religious Party ministers did not want to liberate Jerusalem. “Who needs that whole Vatican?” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan explained at the time.
I was shamed into becoming a baseball fan by my mother, a Holocaust survivor who came to America in 1953 and who to this day doesn’t know the difference between a home run and a strikeout.
The late Michael Kelly was a brilliant writer and editor (The New York Times, Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic) who coincidentally happened to be an American patriot and a strong supporter of Israel – a combination not commonly found in the circles in which he traveled.
Even as he left office in January 2002 on a note of unprecedented triumph and popularity, the tone of the New York Times’s editorials and most of its news coverage was startlingly jaundiced.
Koch became a chronic – some would say compulsive – critic of Giuliani.
Resnick has collected five dozen of his best interviews in book format. Called “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books), the collection includes updates on nearly every interviewee plus several questions that never appeared in The Jewish Press.
Al Gore has been in the news again, and even some of his biggest admirers are upset with Gore’s decision to sell his Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera, which is owned by the oil-rich Islamic monarchy of Qatar, for $500 million.
Ehud Barak may or may not be out of Israeli politics for good, but his recent resignation announcement reminded the Monitor of just how much the man had been willing to give up to Yasir Arafat at the tail end of Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/the-eternity-of-israel/2010/04/21/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.