Poland gets 1st Orthodox rabbis since WWII

Nine students granted rabbinical ordination as part of a concerted effort to revive Polish Jewry.

michael schudrich 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
michael schudrich 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As part of a concerted effort to revive Polish Jewry 60 years after it was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust, nine students were granted rabbinical ordination Sunday in Warsaw by Chabad Lubavitch. This is the first time Orthodox rabbis have been ordained in Poland since World War II, said the organizers of the ordination ceremony. The newly ordained rabbis are not indigenous Poles. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and a Holocaust survivor born in Poland, called the ordination an "historical event." "There is no greater revenge than this against the Nazis and their helpers, who hoped to execute the Final Solution," said Lau. "The Jewish people and its rabbis are alive and well even here in Warsaw." However, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva and rabbi of Beit El, said in response that while the local community should be supported, the main goal should be to convince Polish Jews to immigrate to Israel. "Our place is not in Poland," said Aviner. "The Polish people are anti-Semites. That is why the Nazis chose them as collaborators. Even after the Holocaust, the Poles continued to kill Jews. Look at what happened in Kielce in 1946. The real revenge is not to rebuild the community there, it is to be here in the Land of Israel." However, the rabbis who took part in the ordination saw the reestablishment of the Polish Jewish community as a positive development. "This was a ceremony of historic proportions," said Shalom Ber Stambler, a Chabad rabbi who established a yeshiva in Warsaw two years ago. It was the first yeshiva to be established in Warsaw since the Holocaust. Lau praised Chabad for its activities in Poland. "The spirit of the [Lubavitcher rebbe,] Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose yahrzeit will be commemorated next week, still lives," said Lau. "The candles that he lit in the world are still burning today in Warsaw, not far from where thousands of Jews found their death during the Holocaust. For centuries, Poland had been a world center of Jewish studies, laying down the code of proper Jewish conduct."