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No Proselytes to Judaism Allowed in Poland: Czarist Prohibition Law to Be Challenged Before Supreme

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The Czarist law prohibiting Christians from becoming proselytes to Judaism in Poland is to be challenged before the Supreme Administrative Court by a Pole named Raczynski, who is bringing an action against the Ministry of the Interior for refusing to give permission for his acceptance into the Jewish Community.

Advocate Hartglass, former President of the Club of Jewish Deputies, is appearing as Counsel for Raczynski.

When Raczynski came to the Warsaw Rabbinate, asking to be admitted as a member of the Jewish Community, the Rabbinate pointed out that this was impossible, because the law lays it down that only such people who were formerly Jews and became baptised may be accepted as members of the Jewish Community, if they desire to return to their previous faith, but that Christians who were not previously members of the Jewish faith must not be accepted as proselytes.

Raczynski then applied for permission to the Warsaw Government Commissioner, and when he refused, to the Ministry of the Interior, who confirmed the refusal, pointing out that there is no one in Raczynski’s family who was ever a member of the Jewish faith, and that it was therefore impossible to grant such permission on the ground of reversion to former religion.

When the question came up in 1927, following a complaint that several would-be proselytes had been refused permission to be admitted into the Jewish religious community, an official statement was issued by the Minister of the Interior denying any Government interference. Such a prohibition, the statement said, even if it were asked for by the Catholic Consistory, could not be issued because it would be a contravention of the religious liberty guaranteed in the Constitution. The reports, the statement went on, have probably arisen from the fact that the Polish Rabbinate imposes very difficult conditions on intending proselytes, in order to test their earnestness. Very frequently it happens that the Ministry of Public Worship is appealed to by intending proselytes to intervene with the Rabbinate in order to facilitate their admission into the Jewish fold.

The Yiddish daily "Najer Hajnt" pointed out, however, at the time that there was in existence an order prohibiting the admission of proselytes to Judaism. It quoted a circular dated April 5th., 1927, and bearing the number 674 G.27, signed by the head of the Government Commissariat for Warsaw, M. Pilecki, the first part of which gave instructions for carrying out a strict control of the lists of names of those persons who adopted Judaism in the period between December 1st., 1924, and January 1st., 1927, in order to establish whether the change of religion has been properly recorded in the books of the civil authorities and in the personal documents of the proselytes. This, however, referred only to proselytes who were born Jews and afterwards became baptised and then returned to Judaism, or to proselytes who were born as Christians, but of parents or grandparents who had been Jews.

With regard to proselytes descended from non-Jews, the circular said, however: The provisions contained in the hitherto binding and supreme order of April 17th., 1905 regarding religious tolerance (in the Codex of the former Russian Empire 1905, No. 63), which prohibits Christians going over to a non-Christian faith, unless they have before their adoption of Christianity belonged to a non-Christian faith or are descended from non-Christians, have not been annulled merely by the entering into force of the Polish Constitution of May 17th., and according to the decision of the Supreme Administrative Tribunal and its judgment of November 10th., 1924, No. 1521.23., they must be regarded as binding until such time as they are unified with the Constitution by means of legislation.

As such unification has not yet taken place, the adoption of the Jewish faith by Christians who were born as Christians and are descended from Christians cannot take place and the legal consequences must be drawn from this fact. If such a case has nevertheless occurred it must be regarded as not permissible and as being in conflict with the binding legal provisions. The papers relating to the adoption of Judaism submitted by those persons have no legal power and must be regarded as non-existent.

The Czarist restrictions in Poland were abolished in the early part of this year, the Repeal Bill introduced by the Government being accepted by the Seym and Senate after some delay caused by the action of the Juridical Commission of the Senate in referring the Bill back for further consideration.

Twelve years after the German Occupation forces left Poland, Deputy Rabbi Dr. Thon, the President of the Club of Jewish Deputies, said of the action of the Government in abolishing the restrictions, we see the rising on the horizon of the light of the removal of the yellow patch of the Czarist restrictions. We shall never consider the abolition of the Czarist restrictions as a concession to the Jews, he added, but only as the removal of a stain upon the escutcheon of Polish honour. The view of the Jewish Parliamentary representatives and the Jewish press in Poland has always been that the annulment of the Czarist restrictions is rather a question of the prestige of the Polish State than of any definite benefit to the Jews.

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