Young Poles explore Jewish identity in Israel


(JTA) — Some 25 young Poles, many of whom have only recently discovered their Jewish roots, are taking part in a seminar in Israel to explore their Jewish identity and learn more about Judaism and Israel.

Most of the participants, between ages 18 and 35, were raised Catholic. They come from a number of Polish cities, mainly Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Przemysl and Gdansk. For many it is their first time visiting Israel.

The seminar was organized by Shavei Israel, an organization that aims to strengthen the connection between descendants of Jews and the state of Israel and the Jewish people. A mix of study, prayer and travel, it is being run by Shavei Israel’s team of Polish-speaking rabbis and educators, including the two rabbis who serve as the organization’s full-time emissaries in Poland, based in Krakow and Katowice.

“There is a growing thirst among young Poles with Jewish roots to learn more about their Jewish religious and cultural heritage,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. “Since the downfall of communism, an increasing number of Poles have sought to reclaim and affirm their Jewish identity. We owe it to them to assist them in any way that we can.”

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