New Warsaw center aiming to unite divided Jewish community

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is dedicating a new cultural center that it hopes will help unite Polish Jewry.

“I hope it will be a place where everybody feels safe and gives everyone the opportunity to practice their kind of Judaism and answer the needs of some very different people,” Karina Sokolowska, the JDC’s country director for Poland, told JTA on Sunday about the 3,000-square-foot space that her organization plans to dedicate on Oct. 27.

Representatives from several groups that are part of a protracted legal fight for state recognition and resources are expected to attend the opening ceremony. They include the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the Progressive Judaism movement Beit Polska and the competing Progressive community Ec Chaim.

The Union of Jewish Religious Communities, an umbrella group that includes Ec Chaim as well as Orthodox groups, has petitioned a Polish court to revoke state recognition of Beit Polska as a religious association. The case, which yielded a number of appeals and recriminations, has been ongoing since 2009.

“The idea is to recreate the neutral space that we see happening during Limmud,” Sokolowska said in reference to the annual, pluralistic Jewish learning conference.

The center, which will be the first modern facility of its kind in Warsaw, will operate from a rented, free-standing building paid for by JDC, the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, the Koret Foundation and other donors, JDC said in a statement.

The new center will offer cooking classes, child care, training programs, theater classes and a book club to the 900 preregistered members, JDC said. The center, formerly a cafe, will not have a synagogue.

Poland is home to an estimated 25,000 Jews. The country’s first Jewish community center opened in Krakow in 2009.

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