WARSAW – Polish Jewry can expect a “great future,” American-born Chief Rabbi
Michael Schudrich believes.
Interviewed by The Jerusalem Post in his
Warsaw office, located in the last pre-Holocaust synagogue left standing in the
city, Schudrich said the dynamics of Diaspora Jewish life today are different
than in previous generations, due to the establishment of the State of
“I think objectively, there is a chance for a great
future. However, I think that the entire equation changes because if
things really go bad, we [can] go to the airport and go to Israel,” Schudrich
But, he continued, he does not think that such a scenario is
likely, despite the challenges facing contemporary European Jewry – including a
ban on ritual slaughter in his own country, and efforts in neighboring countries
to ban circumcision.
Schudrich, who has been one of the most prominent
advocates of ritual slaughter, which has been banned since January, stated he
believes that “both shechita and brit mila are sometimes used as really a way of
limiting Islamic immigration.”
“The negative impact is the same, but the
process of getting there is different,” Schudrich explained. “So we have to be
able to understand that in certain countries, anti-shechita, which is
anti-hallal, or anti-mila, which is also anti-circumcision for Muslims, can be
much more about making the Muslims feel bad than the Jews feeling
However, he cautioned, there are several reasons behind the efforts
to ban these Jewish rites – and anti- Semitism cannot be
discounted. This, he said, must be fought.
Responding to a recent
resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calling for
European states to reappraise the legality of circumcision, deemed a “violation
of the physical integrity of children,” Schudrich spoke in harsh
Opponents of circumcision are concerned “that you are maiming the
male for life. Of course that means for 4,000 years of Jewish history,
the male was messed up. [These] are absurd arguments.”
current fiscal crisis, he said, Europeans are enjoying significant prosperity
and in their comfort they are “looking for problems that don’t
Poland enjoys a stronger economy than many other nations, he
continued, saying he believes that this, together with a high voter threshold
for parties to enter parliament and the reemergence of a multiethnic political
ideology, means there is little likelihood of a far- Right party entering the
legislature – as has happened in Greece, Hungary and the Ukraine.
there a chance it will happen in Poland?” he asked.
“Everything [has] a
chance, [but] I don’t think so.”
“The entire political leadership since
the fall of Communism has been from that tradition of Poland that was
multicultural. There are two traditions within Poland for centuries: one is
xenophobic (Poland for Poles), and the other one is Poland is blessed by being
multicultural and multinational, and that enriches the country,” Schudrich
While extreme anti-Semitism has grown, he said, it has been
matched by a corresponding growth in what he termed
“First of all, there is perception and there is
reality [of anti-Semitism],” he said.
“The thing to know about the Jewish
community here is that a lot of people are discovering” their
Many Jews hid their identities following the Holocaust and
through the Communist period, Schudrich said.
There are those who feel
uncomfortable expressing their Jewishness even today.
anti-Semitism perceived here? It really depends whom you ask. You get the same
thing in America.
There are people who say ‘It’s horrible’ and people who
say ‘I’ve never experienced it.’ I would rate it on the low end. How many
countries, when the president goes to Israel, do they take the chief rabbi? You
could say it’s tokenism, I would say it’s partnership,” the chief rabbi said,
referring to this week’s state visit of Polish President Bronislaw
There are now over 600 Jewish families affiliated with the
Warsaw Jewish community, up from 250 only three years ago, he said.
not immigration, it’s all people that are here, so that is a very hopeful sign.
There is no question that it is growing. To what extent it can and become
self-sufficient and vibrant again, we will see. I believe in
However, Schudrich continued, his community “doesn’t represent close
to most of the Jews,” as Polish Jews still remember when having your name on
community rolls made it easier for the Nazis to find and kill them.
thing is clear: If we do nothing, nothing will happen. If we try to give
these people 21st-century anusim, who not of their own choice have been denied
information of their Jewish pasts, if we help them try to come back to the
Jewish people, the worst-case scenario is that we fail,” he said.
end, the biggest challenges facing Polish Jewry are the same as those facing any
small Jewish community, Schudrich said – raising a new generation of leaders and
marrying off members.
The Jews of Poland are “very worried about
shidduchim [marriage matches],” he said.