Jews are not welcome

As I mentioned to my parents, while there are two generations of our family buried in Canada, the United States and Israel, there are at least 11 generations buried in Poland.

‘WE NEVER met our Polish family, as all the remaining members were shipped in cattle cars to Treblinka and murdered there.’  (photo credit: REUTERS)
‘WE NEVER met our Polish family, as all the remaining members were shipped in cattle cars to Treblinka and murdered there.’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On a recent business trip, I passed through the security at Warsaw’s Chopin International Airport, named after the famous romantic composer Fredrick Chopin. Security personnel there directed the Orthodox Jews to remove their kippot.
I am the chief executive officer of a multinational security company. Our firm designs and engineers airport security systems, including standard operating procedures for security. Earlier in my career I was a counter-terrorism analyst and national security advisor. My colleagues and friends include the heads of security agencies and airport security institutions. Unequivocally, all of us agree that a kippah in no way poses a security risk. The clear message from this Warsaw policy is clear: Jews and possibly other groups who wear head coverings, you are not welcome!
My father’s family “Sussman” has roots in Poland. In fact, with the help of a friend who is a genealogist, I know the names of my Polish relatives as far back as 1768. On a trip to Poland at the invitation of the Canadian Embassy, I visited the quaint, historical town of Sandomierz where my family came from. I visited the synagogue, which is now the state archives building, and retrieved the marriage, birth and death certificates of my ancestors going back to 1826. I visited the street they lived on called “Jewish Street.” I even visited the decrepit cemetery, with its shattered graves and tall cement monument made from the broken tombstones of Holocaust victims.
As I mentioned to my parents, while there are two generations of our family buried in Canada, the United States and Israel, there are at least 11 generations buried in Poland. Our family may feel like a big part of its new host country, but our identity, history and culture is very much influenced by Poland. All our weddings, bar mitzvahs, holidays and celebrations took place at that historical synagogue in Sandomierz, now the state archive.
HOWEVER, LIKE the more than 3.3 million Jews who lived in Poland before the war, compared to the less than 10,000 who live there today, we never met our Polish family, as all the remaining members were shipped in cattle cars to Treblinka and murdered there. While not all Poles were antisemitic, antisemitic polices have been rampant throughout Polish history. Policies such as making Jews take off their kippot are not new.
A colleague who was a high-ranking security official at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, as well as a senior El Al global security professional, noted that he had dealt with many kippah-wearers. There is no purpose to checking under kippot.
What pained my heart most during the incident was when the young man wearing a kippah eloquently explained to the security man in front of the metal detector that he could not take his kippah off for religious reasons. I cringed as I watched the Polish security official grin, answer in Polish and spin his hands five times indicating that the boy must obey to get into the airport. The Jewish man was only about 20, traveling with his family from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to Ukraine for a religious trip. His father and brother were made to do the same thing.
One of the most bothersome fabrications since the Second World War are those countries which maintain antisemitic policies but claim they were the victims and not the perpetrators of antisemitic attacks. Many claim to be friendly and open to Jews, via Israel or other policies. Yet, as is the case in Poland, when the Jewish population drops 97% to a meager number, it is easy to claim you are not antisemitic since there are so few Jews living in the country.
Similarly, it is important for Jews to wake up and acknowledge that antisemitism exists. Saying “Never again” with regard to the Holocaust is not enough. Jews must take action. They must learn how to protect themselves and not turn a blind eye because of business or any other reason.
Israel is the most significant protective factor for Jews today. Unlike in my grandfather’s generation, Jews under threat have a place to go: a self-sufficient country with a strong army, a growing economy and a dynamic society. Nevertheless, Jews living in the Diaspora cannot be complacent against rising antisemitism. They must stand up, speak out and not bow to the whims of either individual or state antisemitism.

The writer is CEO and founder of Sussman Corporate Security and editor of the book Variety of Multiple Modernities: New Research Design.