2,000 boxes of matzah delivered to the Jewish people of Poland.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF SHAVEI ISRAEL)
Close to 2,000 boxes of matzah were delivered this week to the Jewish people of Poland ahead of the Passover holiday.
The “special delivery” was arranged by the nonprofit Shavei Israel at the request of Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich. It included 1,692 boxes of standard machine-made matzah, 90 boxes of machine-made shmura (“guarded”) matzah, and 45 boxes of handmade shmura. The matzah will be distributed to nearly a dozen Jewish communities throughout Poland, including Bielsko-Biala, Gdansk, Katowice, Krakow, Legnica, Lodz, Lublin, Poznan, Szczerczin, Warsaw and Wroclaw.
According to a release by Shavei Israel, there are approximately 4,000 Jews registered in Poland today, but experts suggest that there may be tens of thousands more throughout the country – who to this day, are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of so-called “hidden Jews” have begun to return to Judaism.
“As more and more Poles discover their Jewish roots, Passover especially speaks to them as a celebration of freedom and the end of slavery or occupation,” said Schudrich. “Matzah represents that freedom, and every Jew wants to have his box of matzah for Pesach.”
He said Passover has special meaning in Poland, where the Jewish community was liberated 74 years ago from the Nazis and then again 30 years ago from Socialism.
Matzah is our symbol of these both ancient and contemporary liberations,” the rabbi said.
The Polish-Jewish community in February and March experienced a worrying rise in antisemitic incidents, including a barrage of antisemitic comments in the Polish media, following statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
In February, Netanyahu came to Poland for a summit on the Middle East and Iran. While there, he was quoted as saying that “the Poles cooperated with the Nazis” during the Holocaust. Warsaw interpreted this to mean that the prime minister was referring to Poland as a nation, not just some Poles.
Then, days later, Katz went on TV and said: “The Poles suckle antisemitism from their mothers’ milk... No one will tell us how to remember the fallen.”
Yehoshua Ellis, the chief rabbi of Katowice, said that following those incidents, tensions began rising in his country.
“The line between Israelis and Jews is not that great, if it exists at all, and we are seeing more antisemitic statements since Friday, which could lead to actions,” he told The Jerusalem Post in February.
In general, Poland has been flooded with the same unabated wave of antisemitic incidents – including swastikas and hate graffiti appearing on Jewish institutions and property – as have been most countries in Europe.
In late February, for example, large posters were placed on several residential buildings in Warsaw, which read: “These buildings will soon be returned to the Jews, to meet their demands.”
Still, despite these public displays of antisemitic rhetoric, physical manifestation of hate crimes against Jews have dropped in Poland in recent years. In 2017, it was reported by Deputy National Prosecutor Agata Gałuszka-Górska that the number of antisemitic incidents had dropped by 30% – from 160 in 2016 to 112 in 2017 – and that antisemitic hate crimes accounted for about 6% of all hate crimes recorded.
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