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Jewish people unable to enter the Izaak Synagogue in Krakow.(Photo by: Courtesy)
Krakow synagogue bars Jewish entry with armed guards
By HAGAY HACOHEN
07/02/2019
The Izaak Synagogue in Krakow, Poland, is currently locked after the official Jewish community confronted local Chabad activists and kept them off the site.
Who controls Jewish assets in modern-Poland? With the Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow, Poland just ending, Jewish people eager to pray at the Izaak synagogue were shocked to discover the gates of the prayer house were locked on Monday and armed guards were placed to prevent them from entering.

The decision to lock the gates and hire security was taken by the official Jewish community of Krakow which owns the asset. Up until now, Chabad was renting the synagogue and local Jews prayed there.

The conflict arose when the official Jewish community decided to charge more rent. According to Rabbi Avi Baumol the increase was 1000%, his blog reported.

The official Jewish community also turned off the water and electric power to the synagogue, hoping the Chabad congregation would leave, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

93-years-old Holocaust survivor and Krakow-born Edward Mosberg [C] / FROM THE DEPTHS

“The Jewish community is cheating the real Jews of Krakow,” said 93-years-old Holocaust survivor and Krakow-born Edward Mosberg.
Calling them “crooks” he called on the Polish government to investigate into the inner working of how the Jewish community makes such decisions.

“Throwing Jews out of a synagogue is something that should never happen,” he said, “especially by other Jews.”

Head of the Krakow JCC Jonathan Ornstein told the Post that, if non-Jews would have locked a Jewish house of prayer, “the entire Jewish world would be unified in protest. “

He said that, in his view, the Jewish world “should now be similarly horrified that armed masked guards barred Jews from prayer.”

Chabad, who operate all over the world, are not a part of the official Jewish community of Poland.

With the creation of democratic Poland when the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) ceased to exist, Jewish communities were able to reclaim communal assets such as synagogues, cemeteries, and ritual bathing houses.

The destruction of the Jewish community in Poland during the years of Nazi occupation, and the PRL campaigns to expel Jews, meant few Jewish people now control assets accumulated by generations of Jews which, at one time, numbered several millions.

This complex question of ownership, which extends to who should maintain the Jewish cemeteries in Poland, what can abandoned prayer houses be used for today and what assets might be sold and what should the funds be used for – had troubled Polish-Jewish and Jewish-Jewish relations since the creation of Democratic Poland.

Polish law states that religious communities, such as the Catholic church in Poland or the Jewish Community or the Muslim Community, are not obliged to reveal how they handle their assets.

With such low numbers of Jewish people living in Poland, a complex recent situation of majority culture fascination with Jewish culture and legacy in Poland led to a relative surge in Hebrew and Yiddish courses, Jewish cultural festivals, and interest in Israeli food.

Ruth Ellen Gruber named this situation, which is also taking place in other European countries, as ‘Virtually Jewish’ in its 2002 book of the same name.

In response to the situation Chief Rabbi of Poland Rabbi Michael Schudrich said that the "essential responsibility of every Jewish community" is "to protect, enhance, and deepen Jewish life," which he called a "core value," in a released statement. 

Noting that the Izaak synagogue is the "one place in Krakow" with a daily prayer service, Schudrich said that Jewish services and learning should be "supported and applauded," as opposed to having the water and power shut down.  

The responsibility of a Jewish community, he warned, is to use assets it received from the past "to enrich Jewish life" and "not to treat them as private properties." 

He called on the Krakow Jewish community to turn its decision and open the gates of the Izaak synagogue again and allow Jews to "pray to God."
 

   

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