Israel Honors Poles for Work on Preserving Jewish Heritage

The Israeli Embassy in Poland has honored more than 20 non-Jewish Poles for their work to preserve and protect sites of Jewish heritage.

The individuals recognized, who live in towns and cities across the country, were honored for such actions as restoring and documenting abandoned Jewish cemeteries, writing books and pamphlets on local Jewish history and working to establish Jewish museums.

Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Yigal Antebi, handed out framed certificates of appreciation and books about Israel to the honorees at a ceremony held in Krakow on Sunday, at the conclusion of that city’s annual Festival of Jewish Culture.

Among the people honored was Janusz Makuch, who founded the Krakow festival in 1988.

Recognizing them was the idea of Michael Traison, a Jewish lawyer from Detroit who has spent much of his time carrying out legal work for his firm in Poland since the fall of communism.

"These people," Traison said in an interview, "are ordinary people who have gone beyond the call of duty" to preserve "Jewish memory in Poland."

The ceremony was well-covered in the Polish media. But over the weekend, an incident in the southern city of Rzeszow showed another face of post-Communist Poland.

A new memorial to Jewish Holocaust victims in the Polish city of Rzeszow was defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti. City officials have begun to clean the monument.

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