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Warsaw Jewish revival peaks with the hiring of spiritual leader

ROME, April 27 (JTA) — Marking a milestone in efforts to revive Jewish communal life in Poland, the Jewish community in Warsaw has hired a rabbi to serve as a spiritual leader in the Polish capital. He will be the first rabbi believed to be employed by the Warsaw community in at least 40 years. Rabbi Baruch Rabinowicz, a centrist Orthodox rabbi who was born in Russia, educated in Denmark and attended yeshiva in Israel, will take up his post next month, a community representative said. He said Rabinowicz had impressed the search committee as both “Orthodox and open-minded.” Rabinowicz, who is in his mid-20s, and his wife both speak Polish. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation — which support most Jewish religious, educational and social welfare activities in Poland — will contribute the necessary funds. The Jewish community of Wroclaw is also seeking a rabbi. Rabinowicz is being hired specifically as rabbi for the Warsaw religious congregation, which has several hundred registered members. Hundreds more are members of other Jewish clubs and organizations and there are estimated to be many more unaffiliated Jews in the city. Since the late 1980s, Poland has been served by one chief rabbi, Menachem Joskowicz, an elderly man who spends much of his time in Israel and who has been criticized as being out of touch with the revival of Polish Jewry that has taken place since the fall of communism. It was unclear what impact the hiring of Rabinowicz would have on Joskowicz’s position. More than 3 million Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and most survivors fled in the face of anti-Semitism after World War II. An anti-Semitic campaign orchestrated by the Communist regime in 1968 forced some 20,000 Jews to leave the country. Since the collapse of communism, Polish Jews have attempted to rebuild communal structures with the aid of the JDC, the Lauder foundation and other organizations. Thousands of Jews around the country, most of them born after World War II, have reclaimed their Jewish identities in the past decade.