Daily Israel Report

Polish Jews 'Coming Out' for Shavuot Holiday

A “Guide to the Shavuot Holiday” in Polish is being disseminated among formerly hidden Polish Jews.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 5/18/2010, 9:39 AM / Last Update: 5/18/2010, 9:58 AM

A “Guide to the Shavuot Holiday” in Polish is being disseminated among formerly hidden Polish Jews.

The emissaries of the Shavei Israel organization in Poland began disseminating the booklet in recent days. The group published the guide to encourage the many Polish Jews who “went underground” after World War II, and their descendants, to return to the Jewish fold.

The guide was written by Rabbi Yitzchak Rappaport and Rabbi Boaz Poch, the two Shavei Israel emissaries in Poland. It includes historical background on the Shavuot holiday, explanations of its significance, and even songs and recipes.

The holiday begins this evening, and lasts until Wednesday night in Israel, and until Thursday night in the rest of the world.

“Ever since the Iron Curtain fell,” Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund explains, “communal Jewish life in Poland has been getting stronger. We have been witness in recent years to an amazing process in which many hidden Jews in Poland wish to renew and revive their historic identity, including learning about Jewish holidays and customs. This guide is part of our efforts to help them do this, in their own language.”

Some 4,000 Jews are officially listed as living in Poland, but it is estimated that there could be as many as several tens of thousands who are either hiding their Jewishness or are unaware of it.

Many of the Jews now “coming out” in Poland left their religion in the face of either ignorance or post-Holocaust anti-Semitism. Others were children – or their descendants - who were hidden from the Nazis in Catholic institutions, and who only now are learning that they are actually Jewish.