Pulling Hidden Jews from Closet

Shavei Israel seeks out the "hidden Jews" of Poland, helping them to discover their Jewish identity.

Baruch Gordon, | updated: 18:09

Rabbi Pinchas Zarcynsky
Rabbi Pinchas Zarcynsky
Shavei Israel

Rabbi Pinchas Zarcynsky has been appointed as the third emissary of the Shavei Israel organization in Poland to seek out "hidden Jews" and pull them out of the closet. He will be serving in Warsaw alongside the existing two Rabbis in Poland: Rabbi Boaz Pash, who serves as Chief Rabbi of Krakow, and Rabbi Yitzhak Rapaport, who serves as Chief Rabbi of Wroclaw.

Shavei Israel helps Poland's "hidden Jews" discover their Jewish identity.

The “hidden Jews” is a phenomenon that has gained in strength in Poland in recent years, with many Jews slowly returning to Judaism and the Jewish people. Many of these Jews lost all contact with Judaism due to the extreme anti-Semitism that they encountered after the Holocaust, and some of them even converted. Others concealed their Judaism from the Communist authorities and now feel free to resume their true identity.


A group of Poland's "Hidden Jews" on a Shavei Israel seminar

Another phenomenon pertains to Jewish young people who were adopted by Catholic families and institutions during the Holocaust. They were told nothing of their Jewish identity, and only in recent years have they gradually begun to discover it.

Today around 4,000 Jews are registered as living in Poland, but according to various estimates, there are tens of thousands of others who have concealed their true identity, or are simply unaware of it.

Shavei Israel's rabbis convene seminars and symposiums in Poland and Israel for the “hidden Jews” of Poland; publish newsletters and other Polish-language print publications on Jewish subjects and distribute them among various Polish communities; and provide assistance with the aliyah, conversion and absorption process for those members of the community in Poland who choose to immigrate to Israel. 

Rabbi Zarcynsky, 27, will arrive in Poland from Jerusalem with his wife and new baby. He speaks Hebrew, Polish and English, and holds degrees in Architecture and Engineering from ORT College and in Jewish Studies from the Machon Meir Institute in Jerusalem. He graduated from the Straus-Amiel Institute for Training Rabbis and Educators for the Diaspora.

“Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, more and more young Poles are rediscovering their Jewish roots and expressing a desire to become closer to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. We cannot turn our backs on this challenge, which is historical and exciting like no other,” noted Michael Freund, Shavei Israel Chairman.





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