Jewish leaders in Poland awarded national medals of honor


WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Three Jewish leaders were awarded national medals of honor in recognition of their actions in promoting Poland abroad.

The Bene Merito medals were conferred Tuesday in Warsaw on Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich; Helise Lieberman, director of the Taube Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland; and Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow.

At the ceremony, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna thanked the recipients for their “contribution to Polish-Jewish relations, writing a common history in the new conditions.”

Schudrich has been chief rabbi of Poland since December 2004 and received Polish citizenship the following year.

“This award clearly once again shows the importance and centrality for the Polish government for the growing and deepening relations with the local Jewish community, as well as the world Jewish community,” Schudrich told JTA.

The U.S.-born Lieberman is a former Hillel director and currently serves as a member of the international task force on Jewish Peoplehood Education. She has lived in Warsaw since 1994 with her husband and daughter.

Ornstein has served as director of the Krakow JCC since it opened in 2008. The New York native lived in Israel for several years, then worked as a lecturer in modern Hebrew at the Jagiellonian University before joining the JCC.

“A strong partnership with the Polish government is essential to our work rebuilding Jewish life in Poland, and this medal is a symbol of the warm, nurturing environment Jews have today in Poland,” Ornstein told JTA.

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