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Being a Jew in modern-day Poland; Israeli Jew who is of Polish descent


Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #1
Hello,
Firstly I'd like to assure you that the title does not come with any accusations or anything of the sort.

As an Israeli Jew who is of Polish descent, and thinking about possibly relocation to Poland in the future, I would like to hear your most honest opinions - is modern-day Poland more Jewish-friendly (like its neighbouring Czech Republic for example ) than the "old", heavily church-influenced Poland?

Its no secret that Polish Jews have both prospered in Poland at times, and were later also, unfortunately, liquidated under Polish soil by the Nazis and their cooperators, which led to some known conflicts between the scarred Jews and Poles.

How would it feel to be a young Jew in Poland today? I'm a rather open minded person who really loves and enjoys Polish culture, as well as the language, which I have learnt with the help of the internet and my grandparents out of desire to speak the latters' language. I am also a Polish citizen through my family.

Seeing Poland as a kind of a potential second home, I am rather interested in relocating there in the future like I had earlier said, but I still have that slight worry, naturally, that I might not feel as comfortable, as a result of my religion. they do tend to exaggerate with the stories sometimes and I'm actually more certain that most Poles would welcome me to their country pleasantly, yet people keep reminding me of the past and the past and the past.

I must note I'm not religious at all, therefore more of an ethnic Jew than an actual religious Jew - but you know...

So please do share your opinions - be honest and please don't try to make things prettier than they really are, just in case of course... :)

Dziękuję serdecznie i Pozdrawiam z Izraela.:)
Harry
24 Apr 2014  #2
is modern-day Poland more Jewish-friendly (like its neighbouring Czech Republic for example ) than the "old", heavily church-influenced Poland?

I'd say that it is.

Its no secret that Polish Jews have both prospered in Poland at times, and were later also, unfortunately, liquidated under Polish soil by the Nazis and their cooperators, which led to some known conflicts between the scarred Jews and Poles.

Don't overlook the flight of the Polish Jews who survived the Shoah but couldn't live in Communist Poland.

Seeing Poland as a kind of a potential second home, I am rather interested in relocating there in the future like I had earlier said, but I still have that slight worry, naturally, that I might not feel as comfortable, as a result of my religion. they do tend to exaggerate with the stories sometimes and I'm actually more certain that most Poles would welcome me to their country pleasantly

Why not spend a few months here and see for yourself? Warsaw certainly has a small but growing and in some ways thriving Jewish community.
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #3
I still cannot come there, I'm stuck in Israel for the near future ;)
To be honest I've been to Poland twice and I absolutely loved it ... which is why I don't like hearing the bad stories some tell about it because I haven't experienced anything like this myself. My grandma left Post-war Poland under Gomułka's lead, and that was due to anti semitism. I know things have changed since, but it seems to me like both sides still hold grudges against each other deep inside.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
24 Apr 2014  #4
it seems to me like both sides still hold grudges against each other deep inside.

I see the odd swastika here and there and have photographs of them. I also once saw 'Tusk Zydo/Zyd [can't remember exactly]' or something like that on the bus shelter near the main shopping mall in very large letters. Whether the people scrawling them fully realise what they mean is another question. Among some of the older Poles, I'd say there is some sort of grudge held by some of the more, shall we say, unsophisticated types. They (a small-ish minority, probably) seem to have some very strong idea that Any Jew=Evil Communist, period. Speak to younger members of the Jewish community if you can find any, and they seem unfazed and unconcerned. Around Wroclaw right now near Skytower (possibly Gajowicka street) there is a black hangman graffiti scrawl with a star of David where the noose goes. It is quite big, can be seen from my bus. I think there are a few around the city, they seem recent or at least I don't recall seeing them before. They are probably the work of a small number or just one person, but they do exist. I don't recall seeing similar things in England although probably there are similar ugly scrawls in parts of London and Manchester too. My point is, be open but don't forget.

(There are annual Jewish cultural events in Wroclaw advertised on posters from time to time and thankfully these have never been defaced to my knowledge.)
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #5
This type of things is what makes me hesitate and think about maybe favoring the much-less religious Czech republic over Poland. I do like Poland more as a country, but I think seeing such things so often might negatively affect my general feeling there, as if they wanted to remind me of the hatred and such. I don't know which way things are gonna go in the future but as far as I understand it, for the time being it has not yet fully perished from the common eye.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
24 Apr 2014  #6
Just to put it into perspective without wishing to suggest it's definitely insignificant as no one can know for sure -- but I recall seeing probably worse stuff on walls in the UK in the 1970s and maybe early 1980s including (in SE England) "Jews keep off the grass" along with swastikas and 'yids' etc etc etc. At my school, a memorable enough percentage of wooden desks had a swastika carved into them (something like 1 in every classroom at least, and it was a big school on a council estate).

One thing I just remembered, I was in Sepolno or nearby (part of Wroclaw) last month and saw a swastika on the exterior wall of a block of low rise flats but somebody had drawn a black X over it to cross it out. That's more than I ever saw in England to be honest. (Note in my most recent experiences in the South of the UK, approx the last 10 years, I don't recall seeing swastikas or a/s scrawls in the areas I visited.)
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #7
Haha that's a cool one right there, I'd gladly shake the hand of whoever crossed it out over there, be it for whatever reason xD
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
24 Apr 2014  #8
There's also this article about life in Warsaw: forward.com/articles/187138/poland-s-jewish-revival-marred-by-anti-semitism/

...against the backdrop of a stubborn persistence in Poland of latent - and sometimes not-so-latent - anti-Semitism, calling into question just how secure a Jewish revival can be.

However, Jewish burial sites in the UK have been badly vandalized in the past too, for sure.
Jardinero 1 | 407
24 Apr 2014  #9
heavily church-influenced Poland?

Judging from a western perspective, Poland still remains under very heavy RCC's (Roman Catholic Church) spell not only in personal lives, but also in politics/government (should be secular by law). This is especially noticeable in smaller cities/towns, not to mention villages, and RCC is most often the 'one and only righteous' moral voice, and other views or religions (even Christian) are not well digested...
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #10
I think that if it wasn't for the heavy influence of the church, things would've seemed much better for Poland in many aspects - not only the Jewish one, no offence of course... just my 2c being a nonreligious fella. It disappoints me to hear that Poland lacks in religious freedom, especially being a part of the "wrong" religion.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,499
24 Apr 2014  #11
As a Polish citizen living in Poland (unlike Harry and InWrocław who are both foreign ex-pats in Poland) since the moment of his birth (now for over 50+ years), I would not be afraid to advise you to come to live in Poland. I personally know two anti-semite people in Poland in my circle, one is of my family, though not blood-related, and the other is a friend of mine whom I have known since the primary school. The first one is also a driver by profession who regularly goes to Auschwitz with Jewish groups coming from Israel and he says he is generally on very good terms with members of all those groups while driving them to the camp and other places. Their anti-semitism is an economic one which - I believe - they directly inherited from their families. Even if their anti-semitism irritates me enormously, I wouldn't say they would ever offend or insult any Jew(s) when they met them in person even in the very dark part of a town. But they both believe in the "Jewish plot" reigning the world economy and blame the Jewish people as the driving force for the excesses of capitalism. I think it is something that was very common among the older generation of Poles.

The new generation of Poles seems to be completely deaf to all this type of argument. The two daughters of the said member of my family (both 20+) simply mock and deride the opinions of their father every time he tries to play this tune. Anyway, research (the results are occasionally published in "Rzeczpospolita" and obviously in "Gazeta Wyborcza" judged by the local anti-semites to be the "Jewish newspaper" as its chief, Adam Michnik, is Jewish) on anti-semitism in Poland shows its steady decline. You will see, however, anti-semitic inscriptions in Poland or antisemitic shoutings at football matches. On the other hand, I think a Cracovian football club has a Jewish footballer from Israel among them. The former chairman (1992-1996) of the Kneset and also former Israeli ambassador in Poland (2001-2003) Szewach Weiss is frequently present on Polish TV speaking in Polish.

Even if I myself have no Jewish ancestry, I feel in a way part of the Jewish life in pre-1939 Poland. This is becuase my grandpa talked a lot to me as a child about the Jewish people of the southern Masovia village where he lived. He was even taught yiddish by his Jewish friends of the village, but once the rabbi got the news about it, he forbade them to teach him the Jewish language (as my grandpa said, his Jewish friends explained to him that the rabbi did not want the non-Jewish to understand what the Jews of the village say). My grandfather always thought about his Jewish neighbourghs as "people who just live beside us"; I never heard him telling anything anti-semitic, though he was telling me about the common Jewish saying to the Polish in those days that "the street are yours, but the buildings along them are ours", neither was my grandpa filosemitic in any particular way. I am sure many people in pre-war Poland were just like him, but I must say I learned after the death of his brother-in-law that the latter was anti-semitic (and a devoted Communist at the same time, actively fighting the Germans in the Gwardia Ludowa communist underground army). When I went to see Andrzej Wajda's film "Ziemia Obiecana" in the 1970s or 1980s, I suddenly realized that I was looking at the Jewish world I know perfectly well, a world which was nevertheless gone a long time ago.

My grandma left Post-war Poland under Gomułka's lead, and that was due to anti semitism.

If you read in Polish, you should read the book by Teresa Torańska "Jesteśmy. Rozstania '68". This book is precisely about the people who shared the fate of your grandma in 1968. One day I hope to visit Israel to meet some of these people.
Harry
24 Apr 2014  #12
unlike Harry and InWrocław who are both foreign ex-pats in Poland)

Wrong as usual. Interesting you want to draw me into your rubbish. Are you perhaps a bit hurt about me calling you out on your lie about NATO and Poland?

I would not be afraid to advise you to come to live in Poland.

Well at least we agree about something.

The new generation of Poles seems to be completely deaf to all this type of argument.

Most of the ones I know seem to not be deaf about it, they're too busy laughing at it to claim that they haven't heard it.
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #13
First of all thank you all again for your opinions :) So if I understand correctly, the current form of antisemitism in Poland is mostly "sported" by a minority of now-older fellows, who also tend to do it more verbally and phylosophically let's say, rather than actually and actively spreading it? Furthermore, you say that today's generation is becoming rather oblivious to the whole idea - which is very good news to me.

I would truly like to be accepted should I ever decide to relocate - how do they treat foreigners with a polish background? I assume that most people could see me as "one of them" regardless of my religion? Especially considering the fact I'm by no means the stereotypical Jew ;).
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
24 Apr 2014  #14
Although I'm Jewish and have visited Poland, albeit only once, I've been assured by Polish-born Jews who still live in or around the major cities that anti-Jewish sentiment is ALIVE AND WELL, not confined to Muslims either, but usually widespread among rank and file Polish Christian fellow citizens. One informed me that all was well and good among his gentile colleagues at work, until one day he let it "slip" that he was Jewish and just by coincedence that evening, his tires were slashed and his car windows desecrated.

Coincedence my eye!!!
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #15
I really don't understand it. :\
Ziemowit 12 | 3,499
24 Apr 2014  #16
I've been assured by Polish-born Jews who still live in or around the major cities that anti-Jewish sentiment is ALIVE AND WELL, not confined to Muslims either, but usually widespread among rank and file Polish Christian fellow citizens.

While I occasionally read stories in the press about anti-Muslim sentiment, I have never read about anti-Jewish sentiment except hooliganism at football matches or anti-Jewish inscriptions or occasional vandalism at Jewish cemeteries. However, I do not deny it may happen and I don't think everyone is going to report it to the press. But I can observe that anti-semitism tends increasingly to become a thing of the past. If you evoke rank and file Polish Christian citizens, I have met none among my circle of acquaintances except the two cases I have described in my previous post.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
24 Apr 2014  #17
Neither do I Kartofel, since as a native-born American, I grew up believing that one is known by one's nationality of birth, NOT by their ethnicity (let alone the ethnic/national origins of their parents etc.)

Poland's remaining Jews originate from those families who have been living there for close to a thousand years, yet until Poland's independence, as subjects rather than as citizens, already a primary distinction! Furthermore, while visiting Poland, even though briefly, I kept reminding myself not to judge European views on national identity based on my own, since such ethnocentrism rarely yields positive results:-)

Jews continue to be judged according to outmoded stereotypes, much like throughout the rest of Europe (the more "enlightened" countries as well.) France for instance was once the cornerstone of the Enlightenment, yet she remained virulently anti-Jewish right up through the present.
Harry
24 Apr 2014  #18
anti-Jewish sentiment is ALIVE AND WELL, not confined to Muslims either, but usually widespread among rank and file Polish Christian fellow citizens.

Anti-semitism can be found anywhere. However, it is most certainly not widespread here in Poland.

I really don't understand it. :\

Anti-semitism can be found everywhere. Even Israel has problems with neo-Nazis. However, the problem here is a long way from widespread and gets smaller every year.

I think you should call at the emergency department of the nearest psychiatric hospital as soon as possible.

We can see that there's no chance that you're going to support your lie; instead you try to insult me. So that's one nil to me.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
24 Apr 2014  #19
@Harry, what I meant is that the problem of anti-Semitism, while not confined to Poland, nonetheless persists and can turn ugly at the drop of a hat!
poland_
24 Apr 2014  #20
I think that if it wasn't for the heavy influence of the church, things would've seemed much better for Poland in many aspects - not only the Jewish one, no offence of course... just my 2c being a nonreligious fella. It disappoints me to hear that Poland lacks in religious freedom, especially being a part of the "wrong" religion.

Maybe I live in a different world to many posters on this forum as I see Poland accepting the contributions of Polish Jews through-out history. There is more of a problem of Poles hating Poles due to success or lack of. As for anti Jewish graffiti it is mostly linked to football rivalry as some clubs boast of having a Jewish history.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
24 Apr 2014  #21
It's the assimilated Jews in Poland (as elsewhere on the continent) who appear to live more comfortably. First sign of kipas, caftans etc.. then there can be trouble:-) At least this is what I've been told by contemporary Polish Jews, living and working in Warsaw.
Szalawa 3 | 248
24 Apr 2014  #22
ethnic Jew than an actual religious Jew

I thought you said your Polish decent? This is like equivalent to calling someone ethnic Muslim?-Just curiosity, do you consider Ethiopian Jews ethnic Jews too?

I was in Poland this summer and even small cities have operational Synagogues and Jewish community centers, in fact a Jewish community center was right across from where I stayed. Now was there selective targeting of the Jewish center? yes there were several in the past and probably will be more in the future but not as common as you think and nothing too serious. But If you are not too religious and don't go around telling everyone your "ethnic Jew" you wont attract these kinds of people. As for normal people in Poland, they simply wont care.
Harry
24 Apr 2014  #23
the problem of anti-Semitism, while not confined to Poland, nonetheless persists and can turn ugly at the drop of a hat!

Racism persists everywhere and can turn ugly at the drop of a hat everywhere. In Poland the problem is less and less every year.
Jardinero 1 | 407
24 Apr 2014  #24
I think that in PL a much bigger challenge than racism and anti-Semitism is RCC's omnipotent influence and dominance in the public sphere - no separation of Church and State in practice...
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #25
I thought you said your Polish decent?

Let me re-explain :)
Judaism is present in two forms, or rather - divided - into two forms: The religion and the ethnicity.
Some, like I, consider Judaism to be like an ethnic part of the person - So since I was born as a Jew I will always be a Jew whether I believe in god or not. I do respect the Jewish tradition, celebrate Jewish holidays and know the Jewish culture - However I am an atheist, which would make me a kind of "foul" Jew in the eyes of the religious Jews. Some of them say whoever doesn't believe in god and follows his orders in his daily life isn't really a Jew, but I know that no matter what - I will still be considered a Jew by most people because I was born to a purely Jewish family. (BTW, I know Atheists are a kind of problem in Poland themselves, thanks to the church again, but I really don't worry about that since I never really take pride in my Atheism and, being a Jew, I don't think they'd even care anyway like they would if I were Christian)

As for the true part of ethnicity - I am Israeli - first and foremost, before I am Jewish. When people ask me to define my ethnicity I say I'm an Israeli, or an Israeli Jew of Polish descent. I know this might sound as if I was contradicting myself but my Judaism really isn't that big a deal to me.

The Polish descent is showing in some parts of my life; my grandparents speak Polish and I speak to them in Polish sometimes, and my mother is the perfect "Polish mother" stereotype (My grandma too of course) :P

We sometimes eat Polish-Jewish food, as I've said earlier in this thread we are all Polish citizens and in general we know a thing or two about the culture. :)

I am not ashamed of this, quite the contrary, which is why I would like to explore the country by living in it and experiencing life there. I feel I'd be much more comfortable relocationing there rather than anywhere else in Europe, as long as the old antisemitism problems are kept away. :)
yehudi 1 | 432
24 Apr 2014  #26
As an Israeli Jew who is of Polish descent, and thinking about possibly relocation to Poland in the future,

מכל המדינות בעולם דווקא בפולין אתה רוצה לחיות?

How would it feel to be a young Jew in Poland today?

Why ask these people? You should ask Jews who live there how it feels.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
24 Apr 2014  #27
First sign of kipas, caftans etc.. then there can be trouble:-)

Disappointing to read that, perhaps it depends on the neighbourhood? I have seen (very, very rarely though) some orthodox Jewish people walking around in skullcaps etc in the city centre here, and they seemed totally fine. There is also some memorial in Hebrew opposite one of the cinemas here and that memorial seems clean of any scrawls and well kept. It's probably just a few pockets dotted here and there. Of course, such pockets can poison a larger group, so nothing must ever be assumed. Indeed, there is a group (I have no connection) called 'Never Again' about keeping guard

nigdywiecej.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=237
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #28
Why ask these people? You should ask Jews who live there how it feels.

As to your first question: Why not? Why would it be better to live in Muslim-packed countries like France, Sweden or England where it's obviously worse to be Jewish?

I ask these people because this is a Polish forum, with (mostly) Polish people, so I trust them to know their own country well enough to answer me. Are you implying they're biased?

If you live in Poland, why don't you tell me then? :)
poland_
24 Apr 2014  #29
as long as the old antisemitism problems are kept away. :)

My experience as a non Pole in Warsaw is the only time I hear people talking about antisemitism is from visiting Jews to Warsaw, they see antisemites around every corner, which is just their own paranoia.

There was an interesting part in the film Defamation about the EDL visiting Ukraine

youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Fg1rL_kbO_w
OP Kartofel 3 | 41
24 Apr 2014  #30
I do wonder sometimes whether its just a kind of paranoia among us and nothing serious in truth, which is why I opened this thread. :)

Thank you all again :)
Might I ask where are you originally from?

P.S. The narrator in that clip has an awfully-bold Israeli accent XD


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