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Polish Jewish Revival Aided by Popular Telephone Hot Line

A Jewish telephone hot line set up in Poland this fall to provide information confidentially on Judaism and Jewish issues has been ringing incessantly.

“The hot line has been an unbelievable success,” Stanislaw Krajewski, a Polish Jewish leader and the Warsaw consultant of the American Jewish Committee, said in an interview from Warsaw.

The phone has been “ringing non-stop during our hours of operation, Thursday evening from 5:30 to 8:00,” he said. “Nineteen people called and 14 called the next week. How many people didn’t manage to get through is hard to say. Probably several times more.”

Until the fall of communism, it was believed that only a few thousand Jews still lived in Poland.

But during the past decade, an increasing number of people have rediscovered their Jewish roots and identity.

For many, finding out that they were Jewish was a shock.

Krajewski, who has been involved in Jewish revival in Poland for two decades, is chairman of the Jewish Forum in Poland, an organization of businesspeople and professionals aimed at creating greater Jewish awareness.

The hot line, which operates as an anonymous service, was initiated as a Jewish Forum outreach project to serve as a source of information for people who recently learned that they are Jews, who are unsure about their Jewish identity or who want to find out more about Judaism.

Nearly 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland before the Holocaust. All but about 300,000 were killed.

Tens of thousands left Poland in the late 1940s, particularly after Polish anti-Semites killed a number of returning Holocaust survivors. Another 20,000 Jews left Poland in the wake of an anti-Semitic campaign by the Communist regime in 1978.

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