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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Polish Jewry’

Commemorating The Start Of World War II

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

 


    The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

 

     Well-known Jewish dignitaries who participated in the ceremony included President of Poland’s Jewish communities, Piotr Kadlcik; President of the Gdansk Jewish community, Michal Samet; and “Shavei Israel,” Chairman Michael Freund. In addition to the aforementioned, senior Polish and foreign government officials were also present.  

 

     The initiative behind the ceremony came from “Shavei Israel” Chairman Michael Freund, who has played a key role in strengthening Polish Jewry by dispatching young rabbis to serve in Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw and sponsoring seminars and educational trips to Israel for young Polish Jews.

 

 


Synagogue in Gdansk (Danzig) Poland, one of the first cities to fall to Germany, in WW II

 

 

   Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, recited a memorial prayer for the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, and recalled the Jewish soldiers who served in the Polish Armed Forces and died while fighting the Nazi invaders. A number of young Jews from across Poland, many who have just discovered their Jewish roots, took part, which highlighted the ongoing revival of Polish Jewry. Therefore, the slogan, “70 years later we are still here,” was the banner under which the ceremony took place.     

 

     In his remarks at the ceremony, Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund said: “It is incumbent upon us to mark this sad day, to ponder its consequences and to internalize its lessons. But we cannot and must not lose hope – a Jew is not allowed to despair. The participation of young Polish Jews in this ceremony, many of whom have only recently returned to their Jewish roots, is compelling proof that the Nazis and their collaborators ultimately failed. Seven decades after the Holocaust, the Jewish spark is once again coming to life here in Poland.”

 

 


Rabbi Michael Schudrich speaking at the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

 

 

    “Israel and world Jewry must rise to the challenge and facilitate this process of reconnecting young Poles with their Jewish roots. Shavei Israel is proud to be partnering with Poland’s Jewish community and helping to foster this historic rebirth. Seventy years later, Polish Jewry is still here,” said Freund.

Commemorating The Start Of World War II

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

 

    The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

 

     Well-known Jewish dignitaries who participated in the ceremony included President of Poland’s Jewish communities, Piotr Kadlcik; President of the Gdansk Jewish community, Michal Samet; and “Shavei Israel,” Chairman Michael Freund. In addition to the aforementioned, senior Polish and foreign government officials were also present.  

 

     The initiative behind the ceremony came from “Shavei Israel” Chairman Michael Freund, who has played a key role in strengthening Polish Jewry by dispatching young rabbis to serve in Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw and sponsoring seminars and educational trips to Israel for young Polish Jews.

 

 

Synagogue in Gdansk (Danzig) Poland, one of the first cities to fall to Germany, in WW II

 

 

   Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, recited a memorial prayer for the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, and recalled the Jewish soldiers who served in the Polish Armed Forces and died while fighting the Nazi invaders. A number of young Jews from across Poland, many who have just discovered their Jewish roots, took part, which highlighted the ongoing revival of Polish Jewry. Therefore, the slogan, “70 years later we are still here,” was the banner under which the ceremony took place.     

 

     In his remarks at the ceremony, Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund said: “It is incumbent upon us to mark this sad day, to ponder its consequences and to internalize its lessons. But we cannot and must not lose hope – a Jew is not allowed to despair. The participation of young Polish Jews in this ceremony, many of whom have only recently returned to their Jewish roots, is compelling proof that the Nazis and their collaborators ultimately failed. Seven decades after the Holocaust, the Jewish spark is once again coming to life here in Poland.”

 

 

Rabbi Michael Schudrich speaking at the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

 

 

    “Israel and world Jewry must rise to the challenge and facilitate this process of reconnecting young Poles with their Jewish roots. Shavei Israel is proud to be partnering with Poland’s Jewish community and helping to foster this historic rebirth. Seventy years later, Polish Jewry is still here,” said Freund.

A Year In Poland

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

         For many, Polish Jewry is a misnomer; they (even those that come to visit) think that there is no longer any Jewish life, that it was all killed in the Holocaust. In the past year, I have been privileged to see just how much life there is in Poland.

 

         My first trip to Poland was in time to celebrate Sukkot with the community. A joyous time anywhere, but psychologically celebrating Simchat Torah, where the Nazis had once tried to wipe out all the Jews, has a special meaning.

 

 


The overflow crowd of nearly 1,000, listening to the chazzanut of Joseph Malovany at the Nozyk Synagogue.

 

 

         Then I returned for the opening of the Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, a yeshiva that, during its six short years of operation, was at the forefront of Jewish religious education. Many dignitaries attended the event, both to remember the past, and hope for a better future.

 

         In June I was supposed to go to the opening concerts of the Krakow Jewish Festival, but got sidetracked and went to Warsaw for the weddings and Bar Mitzvah of members of the kehillah, proving that there is still Jewish growth in Warsaw. While in Warsaw I also attended the cornerstone ceremony for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. I then made a side trip to Czestochowa for the opening of the local JCC and then made my way back to Krakow for the final days of the festival.

 

         On my latest trip I met with, Rabbi Ephraim Miezel, a recent arrival in Poland, who came to open a kollel as part of the Torah MeZion program of Jerusalem. He came, with his wife and two children, to deliver Torah classes. As always, one cannot come to Poland for just one event. I attended the rededication of the three Ohalim in Piotrkow, as well as the Day of Remembrance in Lodz.

 

 


Lodz community leader, Simchat Keller, directing the workers, as they pour cement for the new mikveh in Lodz.

 

 

         As the summer in Poland begins with the Jewish Festival in Krakow, the Isaac Bashevis Singer Festival in Warsaw marks its end. The opening night saw an overflow crowd come to the Nozyk Synagogue to listen to the great Chazan Joseph Malovany, and two of his students, sing along with the Jewish Choir of Moscow.

 

         All these activities that I have witnessed, as well as many others that I have not been around for, prove that the Jewish community, both religious and secular, is strong and vibrant. Rabbi Schudrich is looking forward to many more advances in the coming year including a reliable kosher restaurant that will open, IY”H, after Pesach.

 

         Another project, to which Rabbi Schudrich is looking forward, is the completion of the building of the Lodz mikveh. This past week saw the pouring of the first cement for the foundation of the mikveh. In the past, in order to use a mikveh, one had to travel to Warsaw, a two-and-a-half-hour train-ride each way. So building a mikveh in Lodz will enable many more people to participate in this major mitzvah.

The Jewish King Of Poland

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

      Saul Wahl’s story is one of the most intriguing of all the legendary stories concerning Polish Jewry. It is said that he occupied the throne of Poland for a single day, August 18, 1587. During his brief time serving as Polish royalty, he supposedly enacted numerous laws protecting the Jewish population of Poland.        

    

      Those who study genealogy say that he was the ancestor to many illustrious Jews, including many great rabbis of the Halberstam line from Sacz, Rokeach of Belz, the Ropshitzer dynasty and the Katzenellenbogen line, among others. The secular Jewish world – including Martin Buber and Helena Rubinstein – can also trace their family roots to this interesting personage.

 

      The story of Saul Wahl begins with the visit of a troubled prince to Rome. Lithuanian Prince Nicholas Radziwill, surnamed the Black, desired to do penance for the many atrocities he had committed while a young man. Thus he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome in order to consult the pope as to how best he could have his sins forgiven. The pope advised him to dismiss all his servants and to live for a few years as a wandering beggar.

 

      Following his year of wandering, Radziwill found himself destitute in the city of Padua, Italy. His appeals for help were not heeded, and his story of being a prince was received with scorn and ridicule. He finally decided to appeal to Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen, the rabbi of Padua. The latter received him with marked respect by treating him with much kindness. The rabbi furnished him with ample means for returning to his native country in a manner befitting his high rank.

 

      When it was time to depart, the prince asked the rabbi how he could repay him for his kindness. The rabbi gave him a picture of his son Saul (who years before had left for Poland) and asked the prince to try and find the boy in one of the many yeshivas of that country. The prince did not forget the request.

 


 

      Upon his return to Poland, the prince visited every yeshiva in the land, until finally he discovered Saul in Brest-Litovsk. He was so captivated by the brilliance and depth of Saul’s intellect that he took him to his own castle, provided for all his wants, and supplied him with all possible means for continued study. The noblemen who visited Radziwill’s court marveled at the wisdom and learning of the young Jew. As a result, the fame of Saul spread throughout Poland.

 

      When King Stefan Batory died in 1586, the Polish people divided into two factions, the Zamoyskis and the Zborowskis. There were quite a number of candidates for the throne, but the contending parties could not agree on a successor. Polish law stipulated that the throne not remain vacant for any length of time and that if the electors could not agree on a candidate, an outsider should be appointed “rex pro tempore” (temporary king).

 

      This honor was offered to Radziwill. But he refused, saying he knew a man who belonged to neither party and who, in wisdom and goodness, was far superior to any one else he knew. That man possessed only one very slight shortcoming; but if his election was unanimously approved, he (Radziwill) would identify him. Accordingly, Saul’s name was solemnly proposed, and amid great enthusiasm (and shouts of “Long live King Saul”) Wahl was elected to this high office. (The name “Wahl” was given to him from the German word wahl, meaningelection.)

 

      There is a disagreement as to the length of his reign. Some say that he ruled for only one night, while others say his rule lasted for a few days. All, however, agree that Saul succeeded in passing a number of very wise laws, among them some tending to alleviate the condition of Poland’s Jewish populace. Although this story is not supported by any historical data, it gained the belief of the people.

 

      Noted genealogist Dr. Neil Rosenstein has written an interesting book (with sources and genealogy charts) on this subject. The book, Saul Wahl: Polish King For A Night Or Lithuanian Knight For A Lifetime, is published by The Computer Center For Jewish Genealogy. The ISBN is 0-9610578-8-2.

New Jewish Institutions In Poland

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

New Chabad House In Warsaw




The opening of the first full-time Chabad center in Poland, under the direction of Rabbi Shalom Ber and Dina Stambler, was made official at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim earlier this year. A variety of factors, not least of which is the growth of Poland’s Jewish population (placed at 10,000 according to census figures, and double that according to Stambler), have contributed to the decision by Lubavitch to open its activities there.

 

Poland joined the European Union last year. The country has also become increasingly open to Western trade and influences. Jewish traffic has swelled, bringing a need for services for the many thousands of Jews who come to discover the alte heim - the old home from where they can trace their family history. A new generation of Polish Jewry is also beginning to look at their Jewish roots with curiosity and interest.

 

The new Chabad shluchim, (emissaries) and the 10 rabbinical students who will be studying at the newly-formed Lubavitch yeshiva in Warsaw will help fill the roles of “instructors, teachers and leaders.” With the generous support of the Rohr Family Foundation, Joseph Neumann of New York, and the Stamblers, Chabad will offer Poland’s Jews all the opportunities for Jewish growth.

 

In a telephone interview Rabbi Stambler said he looks forward to working with Rabbi Michael Shudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, and at the same time add a new dimension to Jewish religious life in Poland. “We hope to rekindle the long chasidic heritage in Poland,” he explained.

 

For many years Poland was known as the only country in the world with a Jewish presence that did not have a Chabad House. The Rebbe was asked to send a shaliach to Poland more than 10 years ago and he said no. Most people give as the reason for the refusal that Poland is one big cemetery. But Rabbi Stambler explained that “the Rebbe didn’t think a permanent Jewish community should be reestablished in Poland, but now that there is a growing community, with the local Jews as well as the many people coming for business and tourism, the situation has changed and a Chabad presence is needed.”

 

Poland was never abandoned by the Lubavitch movement, however. Whenever there was an event happening in Poland there were always a few Chabad men talking to people and offering them tefillin to put on. For a few years the head of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, Rabbi Joseph Kanafski, was a follower of Chabad and often gave classes in Chabad Chasidut.When asked if he was a shaliach he said, “No, I am here as an employee of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. The difference between me and a shaliach is that I am here on a job I can quit or be fired from. It is a temporary position, while a shaliach goes to a posting for life.”

 

The new center includes a library, study rooms and kosher restaurant, a particularly welcome development for Jewish businessmen and travelers, who number well over 20,000 each year. Chabad of Warsaw is located at Slominskiego 19-508.

Lublin Community Office Opens




The Jewish community of Poland will dedicate its first community offices in Lublin since World War II. The office will open on the premises of the Yeshiva Hachmei Lublin, one of the most famous yeshivas in Europe before the Holocaust.


The return of the building to Warsaw’s Jewish community in 2004 was “the first step in restoring not only the building to Jewish hands, but Jewish life,” said Michael Schudrich, Poland’s U.S.-born chief rabbi. Up to 50 people registered as Jews live in Lublin, but Schudrich says there may be many people of Jewish heritage who did not come forward after the communist regime’s anti-religious repression ended more than 15 years ago. The Lippman family of New York gave a Torah scroll to Polish Jewry in honor of their daughter’s bat mitzvah last year, and it will be on permanent loan to the community office in Lublin.


The yeshiva was built by the renowned Rabbi Meir Shapiro, who was a leader of the fledging Agudat Yisrael and originator of the Daf Yomi program. During the Holocaust the massive building was used as Nazi headquarters; afterwards it housed a Polish medical school.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/new-jewish-institutions-in-poland/2006/02/08/

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