Journalist Sees Poland’s Jews ‘dwindling,’ Finds Religion ‘minimal’

Poland’s remnants of Jewry have “voluntarily abandoned” the Jewish religion, there are only 16 pupils in Warsaw’s Jewish religious school, and a mere 10 Jewish youths are receiving religious instruction in Krakow, a leading American Jewish journalist has reported.

The report was made by Philip Slomovitz, publisher-editor of the Detroit Jewish News, after a visit to Poland as a member of a 35-man United Jewish Appeal study mission. He found that there are only 22 Jewish communities in Poland now, with a total population of 25,000 Jews–as compared with prewar Poland’s Jewish population of 3,500,000.

“The religious element is small and the synagogue’s influence is minimal” he reported. “There are no rabbis and no rabbinical academies. Jewish school attendance is small and the regimentation in the direction of current political influence is overwhelming.”

He reported also that, in Warsaw, “the young people are assimilated or assimilating. Few know Yiddish and few care.” He noted “a valiant effort” on the part of the cultural Jewish community–the non-religious element–to spread culture in the form of Yiddish books, and added that the effort was more successful outside Warsaw, where nearly half of the remaining Polish Jews live.

He said he had been informed that there were nearly 1,500 Jewish children in the non-religious folk schools in communities other than Warsaw and Krakow. He expressed the opinion that, if another Jewish creative community developed in Poland, “it will be another of the miracles of Jewish survival.”

A visit to Krakow disclosed that, of the 80,000 Jews who lived there before the Nazi holocaust, only 2,000 were left, 1,300 of them 60 and older. He called Krakow “a dying community” and added that “the squalor that is in evidence here is most depressing.” He described the lives of the Jews in Krakow as bitter. “The religious element is dwindling, the youth among the so-called ‘cultural’ group are abandoning their people, and few have a desire to go to Israel. The dedicated group that sought freedom as Jews has already gone to Israel, and a very small percentage of the remaining will seek eventual haven in Israel.”

Citing plans of the Joint Distribution Committee to establish a kosher Home for the Aged in Warsaw, the publisher concluded that, while the Jewish religion has declined in Poland, it was because it has been “voluntarily abandoned.”

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