Group prepares Shavuot guide for Poland’s ‘hidden Jews'

Shavei Israel organization says many Polish Jews lost contact with Judaism due to anti-Semitism, some even converted.

May 19, 2010 07:20
1 minute read.
Group prepares Shavuot guide for Poland’s ‘hidden Jews'

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Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization that aims to strengthen ties with descendants of Jews around the world, has released a Polish-language guide to Shavuot that is being distributed to thousands of “hidden Jews” in Poland.

The guide – described as the first of its kind – explains the meaning and significance of the holiday, and offers a sampling of traditional songs and recipes. It was prepared by Rabbi Yitzchak Rapoport and Rabbi Boaz Pash, two of Shavei Israel’s emissaries to Poland. Its publication was part of the group’s efforts to reach out to the “hidden Jews” of Poland and assist them as they reconnect with their roots.

“In recent years, an increasing number of Poles have rediscovered their Jewish ancestry and are seeking to reclaim the precious heritage that was so brutally taken from them and their forebears,” said Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s chairman and founder. “It is our hope that this book will, in some small way, enable a new generation of Polish Jews to celebrate Shavuot with joy, as well as gain a better understanding of our eternal faith.”

According to Freund, many of Poland’s post-Holocaust Jews lost contact with Judaism due to the extreme anti-Semitism they encountered after the war, and some even converted. Others concealed their Jewishness from the Communist authorities. Yet others were adopted by Catholic families and institutions during the Holocaust and were told nothing of their Jewish identity. Many of these people now seek to return to the fold.

Today, some 4,000 Poles are officially registered as Jews, but according to various estimates, there are tens of thousands more who have concealed their Jewish identity or are simply unaware of it.

Shavei Israel is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of different communities. In addition to Poland’s “hidden Jews,” these communities include the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnai Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, and others.

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