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Jewish Polish Leaders Express Concern over Ethnic Slurs

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Leaders from the Polish-American and Jewish communities in the United States have announced a joint study of the origins of anti-Polish and anti-Jewish attitudes in some segments of American society, it was announced following a day-long consultation late last month at St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Mich. The interethnic dialogue was stimulated by the announcement that Pope John Paul II would be visiting this country.

The dialogue participants expressed deep concern over the persistent manifestations in American society of anti-Polish and anti-Semitic slurs expressed in popular culture and asserted that these slurs cause psychological damage, especially to young people, who are the victims of such defamation.

The dialogue was organized by Rev. Leonard F. Chrobot, Polish-American religious and ethnic leader who is president of St. Mary’s College, and Harold Gales, president of the American Jewish Committee’s Detroit chapter.

Participants included representatives from key national Polish-American organizations and academic life and prominent staff and lay leaders of the A Committee, including Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, national director of interreligious affairs; George Szobad, a former mayor of Scarsdale, New York, and a member of the AJCommittee’s National Board of Governors; Leonard Walentynowicz, executive director of the Polish-American Congress; Eugene Kusielewicz, president of the Kosciuszko Foundation; and Andrew Ehrenkreutz of the North American Center for Polish Studies.

CALL FOR BETTER JUDGEMENT

The “Orchard Lake Statement” strongly rejected offensive “anti-Polish jokes” perpetrated by the media, particularly by comedians. The participants called for better judgement on behalf of responsible media leaders in this regard.

Similarly, both groups disapproved of any anti-Semitic manifestations in the general culture, including some anti-Jewish manifestations heard following the recent resignation of Ambassador Andrew Young. The hope was expressed that tension between the Black and Jewish communities would be resolved quickly and that the spirit of cooperation be restored. The participants said, “In our pluralistic society, any breakdown of communication between any ethnic groups hurts all ethnic groups and the society as a whole.”

Both groups acknowledged that there has been considerable misunderstanding in both the Polish and Jewish communities in the United States and elsewhere over the situation of the Jewish people in Poland, climaxed by the tragedy of the Nazi Holocaust. They declared that they shared the conviction that “history must not become a hitching post to the past, but rather a guiding post to a more humane future.”

The Polish and Jewish leaders agreed to organize a project of Polish and Jewish scholars who would seek to write and publish together on objective joint Polish-Jewish history, and other cultural documents, which would take into account the respective understandings and sensitivities of both communities in their common pursuit of objective truth.

The Polish and Jewish leaders also agreed in the coming months for a high-level delegation of Polish and Jewish religious and ethnic leaders to visit Poland and Israel in order to promote deepened understanding of “spiritual homelands” in both communities.

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