Polish Jewish feud intensifies as one leader calls others ‘court Jews’
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Polish Jewish feud intensifies as one leader calls others ‘court Jews’

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, center, with Artur Hofman, left, Jonny Daniels, right and Head of Chabad Poland rabbi Shalom Stembler, far left and Rabbi Eliezer Gurary of Chabad Krakow meeting in Warsaw on Aug. 16, 2017. Photo From the Depths

(JTA) — In an escalation of a feud among Polish Jews over a perceived increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and the government’s role in stopping it, a communal leader called Jews who met with a ruling party politician his “court Jews.”

Last week, Artur Hofman, president of the TSKZ cultural group of Polish Jews, and three other Jews met with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a founder of the ruling Law and Justice Party. Hofman dismissed claims about  rising anti-Semitism as part of “a political war” against Law and Justice.

On Monday Sergiusz Kowalski, who had alerted the government about anti-Semitism as the president of the Polish branch of the B’nai B’rith Jewish group, blasted the group who met with Kaczynski.

The meeting sent a “message that went into the world: ‘We very much have our Jews who love Law and Justice and we have anti-Semitism problem,’” Kowalski told the NaTemat news site. “Such court Jews were long used” by the authorities.

Kowalski was one of the authors of  an open letter to Kaczynski pleading with officials to curb what they said was rising anti-Semitism.

But Hofman, whose group of 1,200 members is Poland’s largest Jewish organization, dismissed claims that the government is tolerating rising anti-Semitic rhetoric., telling JTA that they were exaggerated and politically motivated. Hofman met Kaczynski along with two Chabad rabbis and Jonny Daniels, the founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group.

The communal feud firmly places Chabad, the Hasidic outreach movement with a strong presence in many former Soviet bloc countries, on the side of those who think complaints of anti-Semitism are exaggerated and that the Law and Justice Party has been receptive to the Jews’ concerns.

After the meeting with Kaczynski, 14 Polish groups and individuals  — including Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland — co-signed a statement Sunday stating that the Chabad rabbis, Shalom Dov Ber Stambler and Eliezer Gurary, along with Daniels and Hofman, do not represent the Jewish community of Poland but at most “themselves or their own organizations.”

Kowalski also said that followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch, the Hasidic movement, were “generally very intolerant of other Jews, especially the nonreligious.”

A spokesperson for Chabad Poland told JTA the movement has worked “with devotion to preserve Jewish life” including in Poland and “does not need a kosher certificate from anyone.” Chabad’s representatives make no apologies for meeting with Kaczynski to discuss Jewish life in Poland, including on anti-Semitism, which Kaczynski promised to fight during the meet, the spokesperson added. Claiming that Chabad Poland was not part of the country’s Jewish scene and circles is “unacceptable and inaccurate,” he added.