BUDAPEST (May. 2)
Warsaw’s Jewish community has a new Torah scroll.
Donated by a congregation in Chicago, the torah was installed last week in the city’s Nozyk synagogue in a gala ceremony that was part of commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Visiting Israeli President Moshe Katsav carried the scroll into the synagogue after it was brought through the streets of the city under a chupah, or canopy.
“This was the first such event in the postwar history of Polish Jewry,” said Michael Schudrich, rabbi of Warsaw and LÂ¢dz.
The Nozyk synagogue is the only one of prewar Warsaw’s more that 200 synagogues to have survived the Holocaust. It is used regularly today by the city’s small but active Jewish community.
The joyful procession began at the site of Warsaw’s Great Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis on May 16, 1943. A huge skyscraper now stands on the spot.
“The destruction of the Great Synagogue was to testify that Jewish life in Warsaw had been killed,” Schudrich said.
“We were supposed to no longer exist, not in Warsaw, not anywhere Poland, and — had the plans of the Nazis been completed — not anywhere in the world. Yet 60 years later we are there. We rebuilt our community. We endure.”
Poland was home to 3.5 million Jews before World War II, and Warsaw was Europe’s biggest Jewish city: Its more than 300,000 Jews made up about one-third of the local population.
At least 3 million Polish Jews, including almost all of Warsaw’s Jewish population, were killed in the Shoah.
Since the fall of communism, a small Jewish community has again emerged in Poland.
Community leaders and dignitaries carried the Torah and the canopy during the procession. The ceremony was attended by the mayor of Warsaw, former Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who is a Righteous Gentile; the papal nuncio to Poland; diplomats; representatives of the president and prime minister of Poland; and visiting Jewish leaders.
Following the installation of the Torah, family members of three Polish Gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust were awarded Righteous Among the Nations medals by Yad Vashem.