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Non-religious Jews Cannot Be Members of Jewish Community in Poland: Parliamentary Commission Rejects

The Jewish Community regulations drawn up by the Government in November, excluding non-religious Jews from participation in the affairs of the Jewish Community, are to stand, according to the decision to-day of the Education and Public Worship Commission of the Seym, in rejecting a motion introduced by the Club of Jewish Deputies which sought to restore the old arrangement under which all Jews were able to take part in the affairs of the Jewish Community, enjoying the right to vote in the Jewish Community elections and to serve as members of the Jewish Community Board.

Deputy Sommerstein, who was the spokesman for the Club of Jewish Deputies, complained that the new regulations destroy the principle of autonomy of the Jewish Communities by depriving non-orthodox Jews of their right of membership of the Jewish Community.

Deputy Sommerstein, speaking in the Seym early this month, registered a protest on behalf of the Club of Jewish Deputies against the new Government regulations for organising the Jewish Communities on a religious basis. Deputy Minzberg, one of the Jewish members of the Government Party, who is a leader of the Agudath Israel and President of the Lodz Jewish Community, rose to declare that the Orthodox Jews are satisfied with the new Jewish Communities regulations, which, he said, aim at eliminating the anti-religious elements who are misusing the Jewish Communities for political propaganda and converting them into Moscow cells of irreligion. The phrase about Moscow cells of irreligion caused a considerable stir, and this week the Executive of the Polish Agudath Israel adopted a recommendation addressed to Deputy Minzberg that in future he should not speak in the Seym on Jewish questions without first consulting the Political Commission of the Agudah.

Orthodox Jews in Poland have never made any secret, however, of their dissatisfaction with the old arrangement, by which people who openly scoffed at religion could be members of the Jewish Community Board, on the ground that they are members of the Jewish nationality or race, but not of the Jewish faith. There have been frequent clashes in the Jewish Communities on this account, and in Warsaw the Bundists seceded from the Jewish Community in 1929, declaring that they did so because they had found it impossible owing to the attitude of the Zionist and Agudist majority to carry out their purpose of converting the Jewish Community into a secular, national-cultural autonomous organisation, with its charity activities converted into social-aid work and the Jewish school system secularised. At the very first meeting of the Community held in 1924 the Bundist fraction submitted a formal protest against the religious character of the Community, insisting that in their view it was the representative body of the whole Jewish population and not merely of its religious section. The religious groups once protested also against an article in the Bundist paper declaring that the Bundist aim in the Community was to fight against Jewish clericalism.

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