By Rabbi Haim Beliak and Piotr Stasiak, Chair of Beit Polska
Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday eve April 27 and Monday, April 28) marks the loss of millions of our brothers and sisters who were murdered by the Nazi Germans in ghettos, forests, killing factories, and work camps located primarily in Poland and Eastern Europe.
Many thought that Jewish life would never live on this soil again. But today we are witness to a modern miracle — the renewal of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe especially Poland.
This day will be observed by many Jewish communities through out the world as a day of mourning for the Six Million Jews. We note that many Jews living outside of Poland are not aware of the many millions of others who were murdered by the Nazi Germans including many non-Jewish Polish fellow citizens. This was part of the Nazi plan to reduce Poland to a country of “wood gatherers and water drawers.” Today, Poland is a modernizing member of the European Union with dozens of universities and medical colleges.
Over the next several days, many visitors will be participating in the March of the Living programs. We stand with you our fellow Jews in solidarity. We hope that next year and in coming years, we will be included in the ceremonies at the various sites of commemoration.
The Progressive Jewish communities in Poland welcome your presence at our services during your visit especially at Beit Warszawa, our founding community (1995). We are affiliated with Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland and the European Union for Progressive Judaism and the World Union for Progressive Judaism, a world wide network of Reform and some Conservative Congregations. We are proud of our very existence in Poland today. We make up nine communities all over Poland and we enjoy the protections of religious freedom that Poland extends to all its citizens.
We are the continuation of the Progressive Jewish tradition in Poland that has roots reaching back to the magnificent synagogues communities of pre-World War II Poland with members numbering over 100,000. We have a noble past in Poland, Ukraine, and Germany; the first Progressive Jewish community was founded in Warsaw in 1803.
By coincidence, this weekend one of those Catholic Poles destined by the Nazi Germans to be a “water drawer” but who became John Paul II is being canonized as a saint in the Catholic faith along side of Pope John XXIII, who convened Vatican II that produced Nostra Aetate. We celebrate the lives of these two men.
As Jews we join you in grief and sorrow remembering The Six Million but we look to a future in which Jewish life will flourish not only in Israel, North America, Europe, and other places but also in Poland. We extend a hand of friendship to you and invite you to visit many times in the future.