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Jewish leader in Poland loses job in ‘financial irregularities’ scandal

ROME, April 25 (JTA) — The Jewish community in Poland is being wracked by a scandal that has forced the country’s umbrella Jewish organization to fire its treasurer and downgrade the status of the Jewish communities in Gdansk and Poznan. It involves what the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland termed “very serious financial irregularities” committed by Gdansk Jewish community Chairman Jakub Szadaj, as well as a “slanderous campaign” Szadaj has conducted in the mainstream media against the union’s board and other Jewish organizations. “It is an extremely unpleasant, depressing and destructive situation,” Stanislaw Krajewski, a member of the union’s board, told JTA from Warsaw. “The Polish press has begun to report that the Jews are quarreling over money.” At a meeting last week in Warsaw, Krajewski said, the union’s board unanimously decided to suspend Szadaj from board membership and remove him from his position as its treasurer. It also decided to downgrade the Jewish communities of Gdansk and Poznan to the status of group affiliate with no legal status. “In addition,” Krajewski said, “the union is determined to make a financial audit of both the union and the Gdansk Jewish community by an independent internationally recognized auditing firm. The damage has been done. Now we are doing everything to prevent further financial misdeeds.” Krajewski said the scandal broke earlier this year, when it was discovered that Szadaj was being reimbursed twice for expenses incurred on official trips to Warsaw — once by the union, and once by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “It was not a lot of money, but when asked to explain the situation he refused,” Krajewski said. “It turned out then that some other financial documents regarding his dealings in Gdansk were not in order.” Other financial irregularities were subsequently discovered, he said. Jewish organizations tried to keep the affair quiet, but after Szadaj was removed from his position as the local JDC-sponsored social relief worker in Gdansk, he gave an interview to a Gdansk newspaper. In the interview, Krajewski said, Szadaj did not mention the accusations against him but instead attacked the union’s president and executive director. Among other charges, he accused them of a lack of financial discipline. He claimed, too, that the union leadership wanted to sell off some of the hundreds of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Two weeks ago, several leaders of the union went to Gdansk in an attempt to defuse the situation, but the conflict only intensified.