The Jewish community of Poland this week received a special delivery just in time for Passover – two tons of Maztah from Israel consisting of 1,692 boxes of Matzot Aviv, along with 90 boxes of machine-made special shmura (“guarded”) matzah and 45 boxes of hand-made shmura matzah - thanks to the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization and its chairman, Michael Freund.
Since matzah baking requires very strict supervision that Poland’s Jewish community is still too small to provide, the community still relies on imported matzah for Passover, which begins on April 19 this year. After being approached by Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund agreed to sponsor the purchase and shipment of the matzah from Israel, which will be distributed to nearly a dozen Jewish communities throughout Poland, including Bielsko-Biala, Gdansk, Katowice, Krakow, Legnica, Lodz, Lublin, Poznan, Szczerczin, Warsaw and Wroclaw.
The Matzah, which Jews eat to commemorate the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt during the Exodus, will be used at communal Passover seders across Poland and will be given out for free to needy, elderly and home-bound Jews, many of whom are Holocaust survivors.
“We are extremely grateful to Shavei Israel and Michael Freund, who have helped us continuously for many years in Jewish education, for this generous gift,” said Monika Krawczyk, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.
There are approximately 4,000 Jews registered in Poland today, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands more throughout the country who, to this day, are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of so-called “Hidden Jews" have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people. Shavei Israel has been active in Poland for over a decade, working closely with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and these “Hidden Jews.”
“Passover is a special holiday for all Jews around the world. It has an extra special meaning here, where our community experienced a true liberation 74 years ago from Nazi Germany and then a lesser but still real liberation from the Soviet Union 30 years ago. Matzah is our symbol of these both ancient and contemporary liberations. Thanks to Shavei Israel, many Polish Jews this Passover will have that special symbol of liberation, matzah,” said Rabbi Schudrich.
“As more and more Poles discover their Jewish roots,” Rabbi Schudrich added, “Passover especially speaks to them as a celebration of freedom and the end of slavery or occupation. Matzah represents that freedom and every Jew wants to have his box of matzah for Pesach. Thanks to Shavei Israel, many Jews will have matzah this Pesach. Thank you, Shavei Israel.”
“We are delighted to partner with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and the Polish Jewish community to assist with the provision of Matzah for every Jew in Poland,” said Shavei Israel founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “Nearly 75 years after the Germans annihilated more than 90 percent of Polish Jewry,” Freund noted, “thousands of Jews throughout Poland will gather this year to celebrate Passover and eat Matzah, which symbolizes deliverance and determination. We owe it to the Jews of Poland and to the growing number of Poles who are discovering their Jewish roots to reach out to them and help them.”