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July 25, 2016 / 19 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Michael Schudrich’

Tragedy In Bilgoraj Jewish Cemetery

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

      Last week I wrote about the Bilgoraj group that traveled to Poland last year and had a somewhat good experience. I was shocked that on the day my column went to press there was a major development regarding the Jewish cemetery in Belgoraj that was first reported by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. I immediately brought the report to the attention of Harold Baum, president of the United Bilgoraj Society based in N.Y. and it generated a spate of letters back and forth between N.Y. and Poland.

    Mr. Baum first asked Rabbi Michael Schudrich to confirm the report. Rabbi Schudrich sent one of his assistants to check the situation and true enough; it was as bad as could be imagined.

   From Rabbi Schudrich: “What has happened in Biljgora is a tragedy and unacceptable. No cemetery, Jewish or not, should ever be disturbed. On this past Thursday, Alex Schwarc of our Rabbinic Commission for Cemeteries visited Bilgoraj on my behalf to see what the actual situation is. Alex reported the following:

  ” ‘In the 1980s, the current wall was built around this cemetery. Recently, a Polish company gained rights to the plot of land next to the cemetery. They began to clean the plot of overgrowth and rubbish that had collected over many years. While cleaning the site, hundreds of bones were uncovered. It is now clear that the fence built in the 1980s included only a limited part of the actual Jewish cemetery and that the plot next to the cemetery was, in fact, in the cemetery itself.’

     “Alex buried the hundreds of bones in the place where he found them (as per my instructions). I am now working on a contact to this company and am hopeful that within the week will meet with them and to help them understand that this plot of land will be protected forever as part of the Jewish cemetery.”

     Can someone let me know who built the fence in the 1980s? Also, please let me know about any other cemetery or mass grave issues in Bilgoraj.

    Mr. Baum is, of course, very upset about the situation and there have been a number of angry letters sent to Poland over the issue. While the answer he received from the local authorities seemed sufficient from the Polish side, it further upset Mr. Baum who took it as an insult that the city would not stop everything and deal with the issue of the Jewish community.

    After reading the letters I saw that much of the problem was in the difference in language and culture. On the one hand, Mr. Baum feels that the situation is of utmost importance and he cannot understand why the world does not stand still to correct the wrong done to his cemetery. The Polish officials, on the other hand, see that the problem is much greater. It is a problem that happens on a regular basis throughout Poland. When he said in the letter that Mr. Baum was “fortunate,” it wasn’t because the situation happened but that he was aware of the problem and had the possibility to correct it. In many towns and villages, where there are similar situations, often the problems never get reported and, therefore, not fixed.

    Last week we saw the good relations between the Jewish survivor group and the local officials. I hope that the situation in Bilgoraj cemetery can be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction, and the good relations will be restored.

   One thing that we can learn from this latest chapter in the preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland is that when work is done all possible safeguards should be taken that the work be done properly. The cemetery in Bilgoraj is not the first place in which the exact boundaries are questionable. The Rabbinic Commission for Cemeteries and the Foundation for the preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, were specifically set up to resolve these kinds of problems.

      Any time any group goes to Poland to work in a cemetery they should work through these two groups. They have much experience in working with the local governments and dealing with the red tape involved. They are also very knowledgeable in the many halachic issues involved in cemetery work and should be consulted every step of the way.

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Purim In Warsaw

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

         Purim is major event throughout Poland. Many marginal Jews bring their whole families to the synagogue for the festive reading of the Megillah. For the established religious community it is an opportunity for outreach.


         In Warsaw everybody gets into the act from Rabbi Michael Schudrich to the youngsters.





         Before any religious event Rabbi Schudrich, Chief Rabbi Of Poland, explains to those present the significance of the event, the proper practice, as well as any possible link to Polish Jewish history. In the case of Purim there is a parallel between Haman y”s and Hitler y”s.




         In a playful Purim atmosphere Rabbi Schudrich was carried into shul before the reading of Megillat Esther.




        While reading the Megillah was done in full costume it was still read with reverence.




Enough said!”



(All photographs courtesy of Adam Tuchlinski.)

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Getting Results In Poland

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

         During my trip to Poland last summer I discovered a few areas that needed attention.   There was the accidental uncovering of the Old Cemetery in Lodz and the excavations at the Chelmno Death Camp. A third place of interest was the discovery in Lubachow of a major mass grave of Holocaust victims. At that time I wrote about the findings and received a lot of mail asking about the current condition of the places in question.


         Last week I had occasion to sit and talk with Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and we discussed these and other issues regarding the Jewish community in Poland.



The exposed Old Jewish Cemetery in Lodz as it looked this past summer.



         When I visited Chelmno with Chief Rabbi of Galicia, Rabbi Chaim Baruch Gluck, we discovered that there had been recent archaeological probing in the scope of the mass graves. While no large bones were found, we saw many exposed bone fragments lying on the ground, as well as large open pits. This situation at a Jewish cemetery is intolerable, against Jewish, and even, Polish law.


         I asked Rabbi Schudrich what was being done there and he said that he had sent an engineer to the site and received a report from him, but work to preserve the site had to be put off until after the winter.



The archaeological digs in the area of the mass graves at Chelmno.



         I am happy to report that at the Old Lodz Cemetery the situation has been rectified and all bones have been returned to the cemetery. The area was covered and a halachic solution was found regarding the tramway.


         In Lubachow, which I visited with Rabbi Gluck in July, an agreement has been reached with the townspeople, as well as the local parish, as how to safeguard the site. Even though it is in the middle of an agricultural field, a line of trees will surround the mass grave, and a monument will be built to commemorate the victims.



Artist’s rendition of the site of a mass grave of Holocaust victims in Lubachow. 



         All the work was done with the help of Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi Of Poland, Rabbi Chaim Baruch Gluck, Chief Rabbi Of Galicia, the local Jewish communities, as well as local and national governments. 

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Chanukah Joy And Festivities In Poland

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

         The Jewish community held a candle-lighting ceremony at the Presidential Palace, with the participation of President Lech Kaczyñski.




President Lech Kaczyñski; Undersecretary of State in the Chancellery of the President; Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka; and Rabbi Michael Schudrich playing dreidel.




Children of the community joined the festivities at the Presidential Palace and presented the president with a menorah tapestry.




Rabbi Michael Schudrich dancing with the children at the Warsaw Community Chanukah party.




    Chanukah celebrations were not confined to Warsaw only. Parties were held in other cities, too.



The Chanukah party in Lodz was well attended. 

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Chanukah In Poland

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

         Last week, we celebrated Chanukah, commemorating the repossession of the Beit HaMikdash from the hands of the mighty Greek Army. After defeating their enemy, the Jews purified, sanctified and rededicated the Beit HaMikdash that the Greeks had defiled.          


         Many comparisons can be found in Poland today. Even now, more than 60 years after the Shoah, there is much reclaiming, restructuring and rededication to carry out. 


         Almost every week, new Jewish sites are revealed, another Jew joins the community, or a memorial service is held for some tragic event of the not-so-distant past.


         On November 27, while cleaning out a World War II Era reservoir, workers found the bottom, lined with heavy flat stones, some with designs and Hebrew writing on them. They quickly realized that they were Jewish tombstones from the local cemetery.


         As with any Holocaust-related news in Poland it drew immediate media attention and the story was reported in many local newspapers. The Polish weekly Tygodnik Kepinski reported that there were about 200 stones in all, probably taken from the cemetery at Kepno.


         Kepno no longer has a Jewish community but the old synagogue building still stands as both a memorial and museum to the Jews that had once lived in the town, which had been 60 percent Jewish, before the Shoah. The local authorities have, as of last week, agreed to retrieve the tombstones and set them up in the synagogue building.


         Today, the town of Kepno belongs to the Wroclaw grouping of communities and, as a result, Rabbi Yitzchak Rappaport of Wroclaw was the first to be contacted by the local press for comment. He said he hoped to see the stones for himself soon.



Synagogue building in Kepno

(From Zachowane Synagogi I Domy Modlitwy W Polsce Katalog,  Jan Jagelski and Eleonora Bergman.)



         He added that removing the stones should not present any Jewish legal problems, as the site is not connected with a cemetery and “Thank God we are not talking about bones.”


         The stones were discovered Nov. 27, while workers excavated an area for renovation in the historic market square of Kepno, according to the Polish weekly Tygodnik Kepinski.  Hidden for decades, the stones apparently were removed from the town’s Jewish cemetery and used by the Nazis to line the bottom of the small reservoir.   There was no immediate word on the condition of the stones.


         Authorities in Kepno, located on the border of Silesia and Lodz Province, have agreed to remove the stones and place them in the town’s historic synagogue. Kepno has no active Jewish community, but was reportedly 60 percent Jewish before World War II.


         The site of the old cemetery in Kepno is covered by a gas station today.


         When I contacted Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, he said. “I heard about this last night (the second light of Chanuka). The first problem is to locate the bones that were necessarily uncovered during construction of the gas station.


         “Next, how much of the cemetery is overbuilt by the gas station? Third, we will sign an agreement with the gas station that no new building will take place. Fourth, the matzevot should be returned to the Jewish cemetery and not the synagogue.”


         It is possible that as a Jewish cemetery, the gas station will be returned to the Jewish community of Poland, and dignity will be restored to the Jewish remains interred within. 

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Old Cemetery In Lodz Exposed

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

         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.”

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Jewish Culture Festival In Krakow

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

   The 17th Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow just concluded and has lived up to the promise of being one of the most exciting Jewish festivals around the globe.


         This year there were a few new stars taking center stage, most notably the famous Jewish singer/actor, Theodore Bikel. 


         Chazan Benzion Miller gave a rousing performance in the town of Bobowa, home of the Bobover Chassidim.


         On Shabbat the kosher Eden Hotel, in the heart of Krakow’s Jewish Quarter, played host to more than 50 people, with delicious traditional food, like gefilte fish and cholent. The hotel was also host to a post-festival banquet that lasted till 3 o’clock in the morning.


         The most famous feature of the festival was the music, but there were also many classes in Jewish subjects. There was kosher cooking, Jewish song/dance, paper cutting, art motifs, Hebrew/Yiddish and many other topics.


          Festival Director, Janusz Makuch, deserves a Yashar Koach for the monumental job he did in transforming the streets of Krakow into a scene of Jewish pride and culture.



Rabbi Michael Schudrich and Rabbi Gluck making Havdalah for thousands at The Festival on live Polish TV.




Chazan Benzion Miller performing during the final concert in front of the Old Synagogue in Krakow.




Theodore Bikel on stage at the festival.




Janusz Makuch, backstage, at the festival.




Some of the 20,000 people in front of the festival stage.




Children learning to incorporate Jewish designs in their artwork.



Foundation Stone Set For Museum of Jewish History In Poland


         It has been almost 15 years since the conception of the idea for a museum of 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland, but the dream took a great jump forward last week, with a gathering of museum supporters from around the world.


         Representing Poland, the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, called for a reconciliation between Jews and Poles, suggesting the museum be used as a catalyst in forging new ties.


         David Peleg, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, reads a letter from Israel President-Elect Shimon Perez, a long time friend and honorary officer of the project.


         Rabbi Lau of Tel Aviv, a Holocaust survivor, born in Poland, spoke passionately and eloquently of how the museum will be a place where Jews and Poles will have the opportunity to learn that the history of the Jews in Poland was more then just the five years of the Shoah. The Jews were an integral part of Polish society, involved in the arts, economics, and even politics.





Rabbi Michael Schudrich of Poland with Rabbi Lau of Israel at the Foundation Stone Ceremony.




Dignitaries line up to sign Scroll of Honor. Included in the group are Marion Turski, President Lech Kacynski, Jerzy Halbersztadt, Sigmund Rolat and Tad Taube.




President Lech Kacynski and Jerzy Halbersztadt on the way to bury the Scroll of Honor in the foundation.





Some of the hundreds of people that braved the pouring rain to attend the Placing of the Foundation Stone.





Shmuel Ben Eliezer signing the Scroll of Honor.





Sigmund Rolat of N.Y. receiving a certificate in recognition of his strong support of the Museum.

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/jewish-culture-festival-in-krakow/2007/07/04/

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