Being a Jew in Poland

A JEW IN POLAND, FROM DESTRUCTION TO REVIVAL by Tom Mor 

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The first question I was always asked, after I  told someone that I lived in Poland, is “Why?”. It never changes, maybe the way they ask the question, adding a word or two, but I always had an answer ready “My dad’s work”.
Apparently, that was never enough, frankly, it was just the trigger of the conversation, and not long after that I would get a bomb dropped on me, without any notice, “So, how is it like to live in a place where the holocaust happened?”, the question always gives me a slight shock, because of the misconception of what Poland is really like, not just a place for mass murder but a wonderful and thriving country consisting of a small Jewish community.

“Why live in Poland?”
So, as I said, I lived in Poland, because of my dad’s work, I moved there when I was 5 years old and moved back to Israel when I was at the age of 8.
Both my parents were diplomats at the time, we lived in Warsaw, in a small neighborhood called Ursynow, studied in the ASW- The American School of Warsaw.

 

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My mother and I, Warsaw 2005.

 

“What’s it like being a Jew in Poland?”
As a family of Israeli Diplomats, we were very close to the Israeli community, meaning that every Israeli event with the ambassador, and every holiday we would have celebrated together amongst us Israelis, but I come from the Israeli version of “Masoreti” Judaism, meaning that we keep our Judaism in our way, and our way was kosher, and synagogue.
The only active one, is in the city centre, Nozyk Synagogue, is a big place for bringing the Jews of Warsaw together.


In what I remember, we used to go there on high holidays, have the prayers with the community, and sometimes even have a meal together.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich is still the acting Rabbi in the Synagogue, and he is much like the “Moses” of Warsaw Jewry, gathering most of the community for the holidays, and gatherings.

 

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The inside of Nozyk.

 

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Acting Rabbi, Rabbi Schudrich.

 

“So, how is it like to live in a place where the holocaust happened?”

Back to the question that I opened with, it’s true, hearing the word Poland automatically in an almost mechanic way connects in our mind with the Holocaust, and there is a good reason for that, Poland is full of tough history for the Jews, more than 3 million Jews were killed on the land of Poland, and for many it is hard enough to just step in the borders of Poland, so to live there is way too overwhelming.
The memory of the Holocaust in Poland is very strong, for both the Jews and the Poles, if you walk around Poland asking a Pole about WWII his answer would be that the Poles had 6 million casualties, with no difference between Jews and non-Jews.
one many renovation and conservation “operations” so that the saying “Never forget, Never again” would have a significant place in the Polish mind.

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“In their memory we march”, trip to Poland from my high school.

 

“Is It scary living there?”

No. at least not for a kid, everything looks perfect for a kid! But seriously, anywhere you go in the world there would be fanatics of any kind, there is still some antisemitism in Poland, but like in many places, it’s just something that you can’t control.
In conclusion, there isn’t a big community in Poland, its a small warm community of Jews helping each other and gathering when they have the option, as a kid, and as a young adult that has returned to Poland a couple of times since, Poland keeps in thriving, and being a Jew there is like being a Jew anywhere else.
Nevertheless I think that in 15-20 years time the Jewish community of Poland might start growing back.

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