Don’t miss this opportunity to explore Israel off the beaten track, feel the conflict first hand, understand the security issues and politic realities, and have an unforgettable trip!
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.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare.
For breaking his oath of allegiance, Tzidkiyahu was forced to witness the death of his sons before he himself was blinded and exiled to Babylon.
ISIS poses a great threat to the entire civilized world in general and liberal democracies in particular.
Kerry is preoccupied with pressuring Israel, notwithstanding the transformation of the Arab Spring .
With no shortage of leftist media that seek to distort the news, what should our Torah response be?
Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier
The Gazans are now paying for the choices they have made.
As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.
Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.
UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.
There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]
These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.
What really makes one wonder about the affinity felt by certain Jews for Grant was the welcome mat he put out for some of the country’s most pernicious anti-Semites.
With 2013 marking half a century since Kennedy’s fateful limousine ride in Dallas, the current revels are exceeding the revisionist frenzies of years past, with a seemingly endless parade of books, articles and television specials designed to assure us that, despite everything that has come to light about him since his death, JFK was a great president, or at least a very good president who would have been great had his life not been so cruelly cut short.
As someone who for the past fifteen years has been writing a column that largely focuses on the news media, I’ve read what is no doubt an altogether unhealthy number of books on the subject. Most of them were instantly forgettable while some created a brief buzz but failed to pass the test of time. And then there were those select few that merited a permanent spot on the bookshelf.
George W. Bush has been getting some positive media coverage lately, with recent polls showing him at least as popular as his successor, Barack Obama, and a big new book about the Bush presidency by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker (Days of Fire, Doubleday) portraying Bush as a much more hands-on chief executive than his detractors ever imagined.
Readers who’ve stuck with the Monitor over the years will forgive this rerun of sorts, but as we approach the fortieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War – and with the stench of presidential indecisiveness hanging so heavily over Washington these days – it seemed only appropriate to revisit Richard Nixon’s role in enabling Israel to recover from the staggering setbacks it suffered in the first week of fighting.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/the-eternity-of-israel/2010/04/21/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: