20 July 2009

A Re-emergence of Judaism in Poland?

There is an interesting article on the Jewish Telegraph Agency today about Poles finding out about their Jewish roots. In my observation, Poles are in the place that many Germans were 10 - 20 years ago. When I was in graduate school, I studied with a non-Jewish German student who was the grandchild of a Nazi-era politician but was studying Jewish history. She was one of a number of her generation who wanted to study Judaism seriously. Now, she is a noted professor of the Holocaust in Germany. I also studied with a Pole who had emigrated to the US after fleeing Communist Poland. He and his friends would go into old Jewish cemeteries and clean them up.

The article has an interesting quote from former Polish President Kwasniewski which indicates how Poles are opening up to the idea that Jews and Judaism are a part of Polish culture. It reminds me of when the Confirmation class used to travel through Lublin and we found a small museum of the Old City of Lublin. The museum consisted mainly of pictures of the Jewish ghetto taken before the war with the sounds of what it might have been like played in the background. All the signs were in Polish and museum curators were always surprised when we came in. They said that this was a museum not for tourists, but for Poles, to remind them what Lublin (and Poland) used to be - where two nations lived together - the Poles and the Jews.

It is nice to see the beginning of an understanding that the Jews might have been Poles as well (and vice versa).

Krakow - we still go there every year on the Confirmation trip. It is a lovely city - but there is no current Jewish life, despite the fact that a huge Jewish cultural festival (referenced in the article) is held there every year. Warsaw - we haven't been to in a number of years, but there is a revival of Jewish culture there now, including a Progressive congregation with an American Rabbi. We may be heading back some year soon.

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