Words from the Rabbi of Beit Warszaw

On Monday I wrote about the death of the Polish President and many Polish government leaders in the tragic plane crash over last weekend. 

On Tuesday I visited the Polish Consul General here in Los Angeles with several other rabbis to bring condolences on behalf of the Jewish Community and The Southern California Board of Rabbis.  They were extremely touched. The Consul Genral is Ambassador Joanna Kozińska – Frybes. You could see on her face the visible toll that this has taken.  She has been in the foreign service of Poland for many years and was an Ambassador to Mexico for the Polish government and lost many friends on that plane.  She personally knew more than half of those who perished.  We visited for 30 minutes talking about the impact this will have on the country.  We spoke about the revival of Jewish life in Poland.  More than 2/3 of American Jews have some tie to Poland in their ancestry.  We spoke together of the changed nature of Poland in the last 20 years and the strong ties between Poland and Israel.

She was grateful for our visit. And we signed the condolence book in the special room they have set up to pay tribute to those who perished.

On Monday  I also wrote about the rebirth of Jewish life including the Reform synagogue in Warsaw-Beit Warszaw.  Here is a message from the rabbi, Burt Schuman about the tragedy. So you can understand first hand the impact on the nation and the Jewish community.

RABBI BURT E. SCHUMAN

April 11, 2020 27

Nisan 5770

Dear Friends,

I have been deeply moved by the expressions of concern and support I have received for the people of Poland at this time of cataclysmic national tragedy. Not only did we lose President Kaczynski and his wife on that fateful plane crash yesterday over Smolensk yesterday morning, but much of Poland’s political, economic, military, and diplomatic and religious leadership, including the chiefs of all branches of the military, the presidential chaplain and army chaplain, the deputy foreign minister and other foreign ministry staff, the president of the National Bank, the head of the National Security office, leaders of the Institute for National Memory, the head of the Olympic Committee, the civil rights commissioner, officials of the Ministry of Culture, the Deputy Speaker of the parliament, several presidential aides and former three members of parliament. In addition, the leaders of veterans’ groups, the last President of the Polish Government in Exile and several heroes of the Polish resistance also perished in that flight. Many of these individuals were people that I either I had met and conversed with or had seen at official functions, adding to my own personal sense of shock and grief. The context and timing of their deaths has added to our collective pain. First, these leaders were en route to the Katyn forest at the invitation of the Russian government to observe the 70th anniversary of the hideous massacre of tens of thousands of Polish officers, among them approximately 900 Jewish officers and military chaplains by Stalin’s secret police. Second this comes at a time when Jews in Poland and around the world are about to observe Yom Ha Shoah, and thousands of people are preparing to go on the March of the Living. As Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has eloquently stated this is the greatest tragedy t o befall post-war Poland. Historians might agree or disagree, but one can state unequivocally that is the greatest tragedy to befall this nation since the restoration of democracy 20 years ago. Many in our community lost close personal friends. Moreover, the Jews of Poland have lost a great friend and advocate in President Kaczynski’s who not only spoke often and eloquently about the Jewish contribution to Polish history, on many occasions, including commemorations at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial and this past summer at the 65thanniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto this past summer, but also hosted regular events at the Presidential Palace such as his famous dialogue with Israeli President Shimon Peres, and his annual Chanukah lighting ceremony. Moreover, he demonstrated that support in deeds as well as words as in his financial support for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and his visit to Israel on the heels of the Second Lebanon War. We in Poland’s Progressive Jewish Community join our sisters and brothers throughout the world not only our fellow-Jews but people of every religion, nationality and culture in praying for and with the people of Poland in this time of national tragedy.

L’Shalom,

RABBI BURT E. SCHUMAN

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