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November 11, 1977 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-11-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, November 11, 1977 13

Most Polish Jews Assimilated,
Bias Remains, Israel Backed

By EDWIN EYTAN
By

European Bureau Chief
(Copyright 1977, JTA, Inc.)

(Editor's Note: Edwin
Eytan was in Poland
recently to investigate the
status of that country's
remaining Jewish popu-
lation. His report follows.)
Anti-Semitism continues
to exist in Poland, espe-
cially among the older
people and especially in
tman towns and the
countryside.
The new Polish gener-
ation, younger people, many
with higher education and
bent on good relations with
the outside world, seem to
have lost their elder's pre-
judices. These younger
people have practically
never met any Jews and
their only contact with them
is through history books.
Even among the Catholic
faithful, and they are
numerous in Poland where
a religious revival is under
way, the attitude towards
the Jews has changed
today. Most Catholic priests
and lay people express
shock and shame at the hor-
rors committed in the past.
On Rosh Hashana I saw a
number of women cleaning
the Warsaw Synagogue,
washing the floors and
walls. Only later did I find
out they were Catholics who
come several times a year
to clean the synagogue "as
an expiation for former
crimes."
At the Catholic University
in Lublin and at the Catholic
Institute in Warsaw I found
people interested in
Judaism and Israel and
keen to learn from Jews and
cooperate with them. This
does not mean that anti-
Semitism has been elimi-
nated but the picture has
definitely changed from
what it was 10 years ago.
The Polish government
fights anti-Semitism. This
does not mean that the gov-
ernment is helping the Jew-
ish religious community.
- The religious community,
the"Vaad Hakehilot,"is as a
result of this modus vivendi
in a tragic situation: the
remaining synagogues are
in ruins; the Jewish ceme-
teries, especially in War-
saw, neglected; religious
personnel non-existent.
There is not a single rabbi
left in the whole of Poland
%rand not a mohel.
. Jewish
Former
institutions, yeshivot, hospi-
tals, schools and homes for
the aged have been taken
over by the government and
turned into general, non-
Jewish, institutions. Part of
this is due to the mass
exodus of Poland's Jews,
part in the government's
apparaent desire to sup-
press "nationalistic
tendencies."
At the same time, the gov-
ernment is actively support-
ing a Jewish theater, con-
sidered a "State Theater"

Li

and enjoying financial and
artistic help on a scale
barely imaginable
elsewhere.
The existence of the Yidd-
ish Theater, which is more-
over on a very high artistic
level, helps Poland have a
"visiting card" to show the
world.
It also seems inspired,
however, by a desire to help
preserve Poland's Jewish
cultural heritage. Polish
Jewish history is taught in a
number of universities and
officials repeatedly stress
that there can be no com-
plete picture of Polish his-
tory and culture without
mentioning the Jewish con-
tribution. Before the war,
there were nearly 3.5 mil-
lion Jews in Poland — more
than 10 percent of the coun-
try's population.
The government wants to
steer the remaining Jews
away from pro-Israel senti-
ments. This explains the
continued publication of the
Yiddish weekly "Folk-
sstimme." The paper's edi-
tor, Shmiel Tenneblatt, is a
member of the Communist
Party and closely follows
party directives on political
matters. He also firmly
believes, however, in Jew-
ish culture and the Yiddish
heritage and tries to keep
these traditions alive.
According to all, Jews and
non-Jews, with whom I
talked, including several
dissenters, any anti-Semitic
symptoms are harshly sup-
pressed and the author of an
anti-Semitic insult likely to
find himself in.court.
attitude
The popular
toward Israel is respect and
admiration. Most Poles are
somehow convinced that a
majority of - Israel's
inhabitants are of Polish
origin and take as a Polish
success Israel's victories.
This is especially true in the
military field with many
Poles convinced that most
of Israel's generals and sen-
ior officers are of Polish
origin.
Today, the Polish popu-
lation has practically no
objective information on
Israel. Many people, and
practically all Jews, listen
to Western radios. The Jews
are especially keen for news
concerning Israel. Many lis-
ten to the Kol Zion Lagola
broadcasts from Jerusalem.
What is the Polish govern-
ment's attitude towards
Israel? The Polish govern-
ment wants to improve its
relations with Israel short of
diplomatic relations, how-
ever. All officials with
whom I met stressed that
Poland will be the first
country in the Eastern bloc
after the Soviet Union to
resume diplomatic relations
"when the day will come."
No exact figures are
available and estimates
vary from 5,000 to 14,000
counting only those who
consider themselves Jews.

.

An unknown number have
chosen to assimilate and
melt within the Polish
mass.
Most of the Jews left in
Poland are there to stay.
The older people because of
their pensions or family
problems — a Christian wife
or a Christian son or daugh-
ter-in-law. The younger
people because they have
become integrated into Pol-
ish society. Those who
wanted to leave have
already done so.
The man who uncon-
testedly represents Poland's
Jews today, in all their sep-
arate and diverse factions,
is the director of the War-
saw Yiddish Theater Szy-
mon Szurmej. He is not a
member of the Communist
Party but close enough to
the authorities to enjoy their
trust. He is deeply devoted
to Jewish culture and espe-
cially to Yiddish, and he
even maintains relations
with a number of fully
assimilated people.

Savings Program
Focuses on Child
Learning in Israel

NEW YORK—A new sav-
ings plan called The Gift of
Education is being spon-
sored by Bnai Brith Youth
Organization, American.
Zionist Federation, Ameri-
can Zionist Youth Founda-
tion, Women's American
ORT, Pioneer Women and
United Synagogue Youth.
The program is based on
a savings plan which helps
parents and grandparents
set aside money for a
child's living expenses in
Israel. The money deposited
earns five percent interest
compounded quarterly.
Qualified students may
study at any one of 140 uni-
versities, technical, music
and art schools and yeshi-
vot. The free-tuition bonus
can be applied to under-
graduate or graduate study.
The free-tuition benefits are
paid for by the government
of Israel and can be used
from two to 12 years from
the date the prograin is
joined. Therefore, the sav-
ings can be used for reduc-
ing the costs of college edu-
cation for a child in
elementary school as well
as for those already in _
college.
For information, write
The Gift of Ed .cation, 10
Rockefeller P,aza, Dept.
PRJ, New York, N.Y. 10020.

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