The chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, came to Warsaw last week and met Poland’s Jewish community at the Nozyk synagogue. It was the first visit of the chief rabbi to Poland.
Rabbi Metzger emphasized at the meeting that the purpose of his visit was to strengthen the Jewish community in Poland. “It is difficult for Jews to come to Poland because this land is soaked with blood of millions of Jews,” Metzger said.
Metzger said he was happy that some Jews in Poland were finally coming out of hiding and that they had courage to proclaim they were Jews. Many of the so-called “Hidden Jews” had learned only recently that they had Jewish roots.
The horrors of the Nazi Holocaust of World War Ii , which took the lives of millions of Polish Jews, and postwar Communist anti-Semitism are in the past. Jews no longer fear persecution and are trying to revive their community in Poland.
Rabbi Metzger also met Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski. “We should be grateful to the authorities and the Polish country that Jews have full rights and the possibility of normal evolution,” Metzger said during the meeting.
The chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, took part in the meeting with Kaczynski and said he hoped that the Israeli rabbi would visit Poland more often.
Metzger was born in Hajfa, Israel, in 1953 and is the youngest chief rabbi in Israel’s history. He became a chaplain in the Israeli army, serving in a tank squadron and finishing his military career with the rank of captain.
Metzer went on to be a rabbi at the Tiferet Zvi synagogue in Tel Aviv. He later became rabbi of northern Israel and also wrote 10 books.
In 2003 he succeeded Polish-born Meir Lau to become Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel. His counterpart is Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.
Ashkenazians are European Jews, who created their own culture apart from the Sephardic Jews of Spain and Arab countries. Ashkenazians constitute about 45 percent of Israel’s citizens.
Metzger was invited to Poland by the Jewish organization Shavei Israel. He visited not only Warsaw but also Lodz and Krakow, where he was to speak at Tempel synagogue.
On the eve of World War II, Poland was home to more than 3 mln Jews.
According to the information from Piotr Kadlick, chief of the Jewish community in Warsaw, today there are 4,000 Jews officially associated with Jewish organizations in Poland and perhaps another 30,000 people of Jewish origin.