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American Jews and Poland’s Rabbi Boycott Prayer Service in Warsaw

Poland’s chief rabbi, Pinkhas Menachem Joskovitz, as well as leaders from American Jewish organizations, boycotted a church-organized ecumenical prayer service held at Auschwitz on Thursday in protest over remarks made by Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Poland’s highest-ranking Catholic official.

The Polish primate claimed among other things that Jews control the international news media, and that last month “a squad of seven Jews from New York launched an attack,” which he implied was for the purpose of killing the nuns and destroying the convent.

Because the cloud of the convent issue has darkened relations between world Jewry and the Polish Catholic Church, nearly all of the Jewish individuals and organizations declined invitations to the prayer services, as well as the ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said that his organization was invited twice to attend the events, and that after the ADL declined the first invitation, “we were asked to reconsider.”

Foxman said that he told those who issued the invitations that “the time was not appropriate to be in Poland,” due to the unresolved issue of the convent.

The World Jewish Congress also turned down the invitation to participate.

“While we did not say we were boycotting,” said WJC Executive Director Elan Steinberg, “we made it clear that it would be inappropriate for Jews to participate.

“There is no respect being given by the Poles to our martyrs in Auschwitz and no respect being given to agreements which we have signed,” he said.

INVITATIONS FROM GLEMP

The invitations to the ceremony received by the Jewish organizations were issued from Rome, but were also sent out “on behalf of His Eminence Cardinal Jozef Glemp, archbishop of Warsaw and primate of Poland.”

According to Radio Warsaw, the interfaith prayer service was attended by Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Christians, Moslems and Buddhists.

Jacob Neusner, a prominent American Jewish scholar, was among the three non-Polish Jews reported to have been in attendance.

Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum said that Neusner planned to speak out against the continued presence of the convent at the death camp, and had prepared a speech discussing Jewish sensitivity over the Holocaust.

“He wanted to speak with them face-to-face, not through newspaper headlines,” Tanenbaum said.

Tanenbaum added that while Neusner was participating in the Warsaw ceremonies, he had turned down an invitation to travel to Krakow and to Auschwitz.

JTA staff writer Allison Kaplan in New York contributed to this report.)

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