Warsaw Jewish community sending care packages for righteous among nations

Volunteers from the community as well as staff from the American Jewish Committee helped distribute the packages.

Warsaw Jewish community sending care packages for righteous among nations (photo credit: COURTESY OFFICE OF POLISH CHIEF RABBI)
Warsaw Jewish community sending care packages for righteous among nations
Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, together with the Jewish community of Warsaw, has initiated a program for sending care packages to the 31 residents of the Polish capital recognized by Yad Vashem as righteous among the nations.
The new initiative stems from a care package program already in place for needy members of the Jewish community in Warsaw, and has been expanded due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has led many elderly people in Poland, as in many other countries, to self-isolate due to the virulence of the disease among the aged.
“Many of these people don’t leave their houses because of the epidemic, and we wanted to help and make sure they were taken care of,” Schudrich told The Jerusalem Post.
Righteous among the nations” are those non-Jews who helped save and rescue Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust without any financial gain, as determined by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center.
One man recognized as “righteous among the nations” to receive the care package is Ryszard Witkowski, 94.
Witkowski was an activist with the Polish Home Army resistance movement during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and he, his mother and his sister sheltered and rescued three Jews in their home World War II, helping one of them obtain false documents.
All righteous among the nations are now very elderly, and many of them have been negatively impacted by the need to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The care packages provided by the Warsaw Jewish community include various staple food items, as well as tea and cookies, flowers and a greeting card from the Jewish community.
Volunteers from the community, as well as staff from the American Jewish Committee, helped distribute the packages.
“Good people don’t stop being good people when the crisis is over, and these people are the most wonderful people you could meet,” said Schudrich, who knows many of those receiving the care packages personally.
“These are the most amazing people in the world, and the more I get to know them the more I want to spend time with them, the more I want to learn from them how to be a good person and how it can permeate all aspects of your life,” said the rabbi.
Schudrich said he hopes to make the care-package initiative to the righteous among the nations a permanent program and distribute them every few weeks.
Poland has seen nearly 20,000 COVID-19 cases since early March, with 962 people passing away from the disease, although no one from the Jewish community is thought to have died.
Schudrich said he has conducted three daily prayer services via video conferences following the imposition of social-distancing measures, which have garnered many more viewers than the number of worshipers who participate in real-world prayer services in synagogue in more normal times.
On Wednesday morning, almost 250 people participated in the video-conference morning prayer service, while one of Schudrich’s online religious lessons garnered 450 viewers, he said.
Israel Independence Day celebrations via video conference got 1,000 viewers, while a memorial event commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19 saw 3,000 viewers tune in online for the proceedings.
“People who are self-isolating still want to connect to Judaism and the Jewish people, and it is the responsibility of rabbis to find a way to connect to their people. In the past we did it in shul, now we have to do it via Facebook Live and Zoom,” said Schudrich.