30 August 2009

Poland: '70 years later, we're still here,' Aug. 31

The Polish Jewish community will officially commemorate the start of World War II on Monday, August 31, in Gdansk.

The event's slogan is "70 years later - We are still here," co-sponsored by the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland and Shavei Israel, to highlight the current revival of Polish Jewry and to recall fallen Jewish soldiers

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 Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel will hold a special ceremony in Gdansk, a northern port city, to commemorate the war's outbreak and set the way for the Holocaust.

The ceremony will begin Monday at 4.30pm at the Gdansk synagogue - Ul. Partyzantow 7 - and is listed on the official government schedule of events. World War II officially began on September 1, 1939, when a Nazi warship bombarded Gdansk and the city was invaded by German soldiers.

Attending the ceremony, in addition to senior Polish and foreign government officials, will be the president of the country's Jewish communities Piotr Kadlcik, Gdansk Jewish community president Michal Samet and Shavei Israel chair Michael Freund.

Freund was the initiative behind the ceremony and has played a key role in strengthening Polish Jewry by dispatching young rabbis to serve in Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw, in addition to sponsoring seminars and educational trips to Israel for young Polish Jews.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, will recall at the event the 6 million Jews who were killed during the holocaust, and the Jewish soldiers in the Polish Armed Forces who died fighting the Nazi invaders.

The ceremony will also underscore the nascent revival of Polish Jewry that is underway, as a number of young Jews from across Poland, many of whom have only recently discovered their Jewish roots, will also take part. It will therefore be held under the slogan, "70 years later.... We are still here."
The “Hidden Jews” of Poland and revival of Polish Jewry are phenomenons growing in Poland over recent years. Many Jews are slowly returning to Judaism and the Jewish people and many of them had lost all Judaic conact after extreme anti-Semitism following the Holocaust. Others concealed their identity from the authorities and now feel free to resume their true identity.

The new movement includes Jewish children adopted by Catholic families and institutions during the Holocaust, but were never told of their origins. Although today's official Jewish count of those registered is some 4,000, various estimates claim there are tens of thousands of others who have either concealed their identity are are unaware of it.

Freund, a former New Yorker, founded the non-profit Shavei Israel to strengthen ties between Israel and descendants of Jews around the world.

Today, the group is active in nine countries and provides assistance to such communities as the Bnei Menashe (India); Bnai Anousim (Spain, Portugal and South America); Subbotnik Jews (Russia); Kaifeng's Jewish community (China); Poland's "Hidden Jews" of Poland from the Holocaust era; and others.

Visit Shavei Israel at the link above to learn more.

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