Last week’s front page of The Jewish Press showed Crown Prince of England, Prince Charles, affixing a mezuzah to the door of a new Jewish center in Krakow, along with Rabbi Gluck, the Chief Rabbi Of Galicia and Rabbi Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi Of Poland. The event coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day in Poland, a national day of remembrance, marked on the secular date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The Jewish community marks the event according to the Jewish calendar so often there is a gap between the ceremonies. This year different events were held between the two dates to celebrate Israel’s 60 years of independence.
President of Israel Shimon Peres inscribed the final letters of a new Torah Scroll to be used by the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Warsaw. The ceremony, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, took place at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, before Pesach.
“The Nazis violated the Jewish people in body, but they could not touch the life and soul of our people: the Torah,” Peres said.
Rabbi Sholom Stambler, the Chabad shaliach to Poland and head of Warsaw’s Chabad Center, blessed Peres at the palace. Afterward, the Israeli leader carried the Torah Scroll out of the palace and through the courtyard, while under the chuppah canopy, in a traditional procession of dancing and singing.
The Torah was then installed at the Warsaw Beit Chabad. Mr. Peres is the second Israeli president to attend a Torah-writing ceremony in Poland. Former Israeli President Moshe Katzav had the honor at the Nozyk Synagogue last year with the Chief Rabbi Of Poland, Rabbi Schudrich.
In his meetings with Polish governmental officials Peres was invited by Polish Minister Of State Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka “to bring together Jews and Poles.” President Peres was born in Poland and has visited on a number of occasions, showing much interest in the history of the Jewish community and it’s rebirth after the Shoah.
During his visit he also met with Irena Sendler, a 98-year-old Polish woman who helped save 2,500 Jewish children during the Nazi occupation that systematically murdered more than two million Polish Jews.
Last week also saw the annual March of the Living when thousands of people from around the world gather at Auschwitz, then walk to Birkenau, in memory of those who were killed during the Shoah. The groups then spread throughout the country visiting other sites of Jewish significance.
The only reported act of anti-Semitism was when a drunk broke into a Brazilian group’s hotel room claiming to have a bomb and that he was going to kill everyone. The Polish police quickly moved in and neutralized the situation. The man was found to be drunk and did not have had any explosive material with him.
They say that a sure sign that a Jewish community exists is when there is more then one group and controversy between them.
In Poland there is a small but growing Reform organization and it is vying for official recognition.
It was recently announced that Poland’s Reform community is planning to apply for formal Government recognition. If accepted, the community would be eligible for State Support.
Recognition of the newly formed Beit Polska could also mean that the group would benefit from the slow trickle of compensation for community property confiscated by Poland during the Communist era. Compensation and return of property began several years ago, but a Government Commission reviewing restitution may spend at least another decade deciding cases, participants have said.
Poland’s Jewish community currently is dominated by the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, which is governed by Orthodox principles, although many of its members are not observant.
Some argue that before the Shoah the Reform movement was almost non-existent in Poland. The so-called Reform Synagogue on Tolomaski Street was called Reform because the rav gave his speeches in Polish and not in Yiddish.