In a historic expression of support for religious freedom a Polish court affirmed the right of the Union of Progressive Jewish Communities in Poland – Beit Polska – to exist. On October 14, 2014 a three member panel of the Polish Supreme Administrative Court instructed the lower courts to reverse their decisions on technical issues that would have led to the deregistration of all Progressive Communities in Poland and abridged the right of Jews to independently organize, worship, and develop.
The Union of Jewish Religious Communities (nominally Orthodox) attempted to deregister the existing Progressive Jewish communities in Poland and impose a legal requirement that they approve any Jewish group that is seeking to organize themselves as a religious community. The Union for Progressive Jewish Communities, called Beit Polska is made up of three officially registered congregations and an additional five in formation.
Progressive Judaism in Poland is a continuation of the diverse communities that formed as early as 1803 in Poland and numbered over forty synagogues and some 200,000 members before World War II. Progressive Judaism in Poland historically expressed a diverse range of Jewish non-Orthodox views roughly equivalent to the Reform and Conservative movements in America.
In April, 2014 the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) with its 1.8 million members extended recognition to Beit Polska, (the umbrella organization for Progressive Judaism in Poland formed in 2009). Beginning in 2004 Beit Warszawa, the flagship community of Progressive Judaism in the post 1989 era was recognized by the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Beginning with Piotr Stasiak, the chair of Beit Polska, expressions of satisfaction in the outcome were echoed by the new President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Daniel Freelander and other key leaders including Mr. Leslie Bergman, the president of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) and Ms. Miriam Kramer, the chairman of the EUPJ board.
Rabbi Gil Nativ of Beit Warszawa expressed the hope that a new and positive page in relations among all Jews in Poland would commence. Rabbi Nativ thanked Beit Polska’s attorney Mr. Greg Galacki for his excellent work. Rabbi Haim Beliak, executive director of Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland, a support group for Progressive Jewish life in Poland expressed the hope that people would take note of the positive actions of Polish civic society represented by the court’s decision and the upcoming dedication of the Museum of Polish Jewish History.
Rabbi Anne Brener, a visiting scholar lecturing at Beit Warszawa during the harvest festival of Sukkot, attended the proceedings of the court and affirmed the historic nature of the October 14, 2014 decision of the Administrative Court. The written ruling with instructions to the lower courts will be issued in a few weeks.