It is said that Poland is one large Jewish cemetery. While that is not 100 percent true, anytime people dig in Poland, they have to be careful of what they might find.
Last week the city of Lodz was working on the trolley line, that runs near the known boundaries of the old Jewish cemetery, when the workers came across bones. To their credit, the work was immediately stopped and the police came and told Simchah Keller, head of the local Jewish community, about the situation.
Since it was the end of the day and dark, it was decided that further investigation would have to wait until morning. In the meantime, Mr. Keller contacted Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, who happened to be in London at the time. There, Rabbi Schudrich consulted with Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, an expert on halachot regarding cemeteries.
In the morning I went to the site with Mr. Keller and found a large-scale ditch, about three-and-a-half feet deep, in the ground. After checking with a local expert on the cemetery, as well as old maps, it was confirmed that the ditch indeed passed right through the edge of the cemetery.
The cemetery, which was in use between 1811 and 1892, had survived the Nazi invasion of Poland, and the Shoah, only to be destroyed by the communists in 1949. It was during the time of reconstruction, after the war, that the communist authorities decided that the property was too valuable, and built housing and a major road over the cemetery.
Rabbi Ephraim Moshe Maisels, giving his morning Torah class after shachrit.
Today the Jewish community fights hard to ensure that there is no further construction (desecration) on the site. The question now remains of what exactly can be done. Rabbi Michael Schudrich arrived directly from London before Shabbat to examine the situation for himself. He met with town engineers, as well as the local community. Mayor Jerzy Kropiwnicki assured Rabbi Schudrich that no more work would be done on the site until a solution, agreed upon by all parties, can be found.
Aryeh Klein, an engineering expert from Israel, will visit the site later on this week. He has experience working on several cemeteries in the past, and will report back to the Rabbinic Commission of Cemeteries in Poland, on what can be actually be done in this situation.
Rabbi Michael Schudrich, said in an interview with The Jewish Press, “We, the contemporary Jewish community are committed to fight for the preservation of Jewish cemeteries in our country. This incident reminds us of the desecration committed by both the Nazi and the Communist regimes, against the sanctity of both the living and the dead Jews of Poland.
“It also shows us of how Poland has changed, how in a free democratic Poland, national and local authorities, work with us to preserve Jewish cemeteries and not desecrate them.”