VIENNA, June 8 (JTA) — Poland’s Jewish community has endorsed Poland’s bid to join NATO, saying its inclusion within the alliance would help the situation of Polish Jews. “We believe that Poland’s entry to NATO serves the interests of our country and of all its citizens, including Polish Jews,” Jerzy Kichler, the newly elected president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, said in a statement last Friday. “It can only improve the situation of Jews in Poland,” the statement added. The statement reflects the view that NATO membership, by linking Poland more firmly with the West, would strengthen democracy and democratic values in the former Communist state, including human rights and respect for ethnic and religious minorities. This view is opposed by some members of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, who believe that Jewish support for Poland’s membership in NATO should be linked to the Warsaw government’s handling of property restitution to the country’s Jews. Kichler held a brief, informal meeting with Pope John Paul II last week during a large ecumenical meeting in the southwestern city of Wroclaw at the beginning of the pope’s 11-day visit to his native Poland. Two other leaders of the Wroclaw Jewish community also met with the pope. Kichler said he exchanged a few sentences with the pope. All major Polish newspapers made note of their conversation. The pope did not schedule any formal meetings with Jewish community leaders during his trip.
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