Prince Charles opens Krakow Jewish community center

Royal couple affixes a mezuza on the doorpost before unveiling a ceremonial plaque.

charles with kippa 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
charles with kippa 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
Members of the Krakow Jewish community gathered with dignitaries and guests from around the world on Tuesday to mark the opening of the new Jewish Community Center by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. The royal couple took part in the opening ceremony, affixing a mezuza on the doorpost before unveiling a ceremonial plaque. Music and dancing with the community's children and a discussion with Jewish students followed. Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich officiated in the ceremony, saying, "The Polish Jewish community has suffered unimaginable hardship over the centuries. Once one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, today it is among the smallest. However, thanks to the munificence and grace of the royal couple, the Krakow community, once a bustling center of Jewish life, now has a real chance of returning to its former glory." Ryszard Orowski, a Holocaust survivor who remained in Krakow after the war and who lost his entire family to the Nazis, paid an emotional tribute to the prince. "No words can describe the gratitude we have for the kindness and generosity of his royal highness," he said. "Never did we imagine that we would have a center, a home, for the whole community of Krakow. "Many think this community was entirely devastated by the Nazis but there is such life here still," he went on. "I stand here today remembering the family and loved ones whom many of us lost so tragically in the Holocaust, but now I can look to the future with true hope that our wonderful community can again come alive." On a visit to Krakow in 2002, Prince Charles was moved by the plight of the remaining elderly members of the Jewish community and vowed to act to change their lives for the better. On his return to the UK, he contacted World Jewish Relief (WJR), a London-based charity that helps Jewish communities around the world at risk or in crisis, and the plan to build a community center came alive. "Many people come and promise us a future, but the prince and World Jewish Relief promised and today's ceremony shows that they also deliver, and we are so very grateful for this," said Tadeusz Jakubowicz, president of the Krakow Jewish community. The center is next to the Tempel Synagogue in central Krakow and will host social, educational and religious programs for all members of the community. It will also host exhibitions and be open to the thousands of tourists, Jewish and non-Jewish, who visit Krakow each year. "Thanks to the vision, dedication and support of the prince, we know that this center will be valued by all members of the community and make a huge difference to their lives," WJR chairman Nigel Layton said. "His support of WJR has been truly exceptional, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. The anticipation of the center's opening alone has already served to begin the rejuvenation of a community that has suffered so much over the years. We hope it will enable the rich history of Jewish life in Krakow to be rekindled and enhanced."