I spent this past Shabbat in
Yesterday I attended services on Saturday morning at Beit Warszawa, the Jewish Cultural Association. It was a Reform/non-traditional service. [Though, in fact, the liturgy etc. were pretty traditional.] There were about 20 people in attendance. Afterwards Rabbi Burt Shuman, an American born rabbi who has been here a number of years, asked me to lead the group in a conversation about Holocaust denial. That was followed by lunch and Torah study.
One of the rabbis is an Israeli. She spoke about participating in an Israeli television show done recently in Poland. She lamented the fact that it began with Yiddish songs and was all about the past. There was no sense of a contemporary Jewish life.
The striking thing was the age of those there. I would say that the majority were in their 30s and 40s. There are many other people -- of all ages and stages -- involved in Beit Warshava's many other activities.
Later in the afternoon I spent a couple of hours with Jerzy Halberstat, the Director of the soon to be built
Tomorrow a.m. I shall go to a retreat center outside of
The reason I write all this is that so many Jews who come to visit
[Many visitors come confused about who did the destroying, i.e. it was the GERMANs not the Poles. They come with the historically daft idea that the Poles were worse than the Germans.... but more on that in another post. For my previous thoughts on that see the my comments here.]
I am also reading Poland and the Jews: Reflections of a Polish Polish Jew by Stanislaw [Stashek] Krajewski who is on the Philosophy faculty at the
Stashek has become a traditional Jew. [Had a fantastic Shabbat dinner at his home.] He grew up knowing nothing about tradition or Jewish practices. He is also a Polish Jew. During the very bleak days in the 1980s -- which turned out to be the death throes of communist rule -- Stashek wrote for the underground press. Some of those essays are included in the book.
When I was here in October I met with members of the Czulent [pronounced chulent] society, the Jewish "student" [many in the group are not students] organization in
Visitors -- young and old -- often find it emotionally and intellectually simpler to treat this place as one with a past but with no future. The community may be small. There are many Jews still in the woodwork. There are many who are still hesitant about emerging. It is a complicated situation. But it is not just a place about the past. For visitors to come and see only that is to shortchange both themselves and a small but fascinating Jewish community.
More later. I am off for an early morning walk in the "