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Ajcongress Urges Polish Prelates to End Anti-semitism in Campaign

November 21, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The American Jewish Congress has urged the Catholic Church in Poland to exert its moral influence to end the use of anti-Semitism by rival candidates in that country’s hotly contested presidential campaign.

“It is a matter of the gravest concern that in the current Polish political climate, calling one’s opponent a Jew is widely considered a denigration, a legitimate criticism of the individual in question and a mark of distrust,” the AJCongress said in a letter Tuesday which was hand-delivered to the Polish primate, Cardinal Josef Glemp.

The letter, released simultaneously in Warsaw and New York, called on the church as “the nation’s leading moral guide” to “issue an immediate official declaration, forthrightly declaring its opposition to these repugnant manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

“We are shocked, after all that has transpired in this unhappy century, that in Poland the very word ‘Jew’ should still have the power to evoke pejorative associations,” said the letter, which was signed by Robert Lifton, AJCongress president, and Henry Siegman, the group’s executive director.

Siegman said the charge is directed primarily at Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, some of whose followers started a whispering campaign suggesting that his principal opponent, Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, had Jewish ancestors.

While Walesa disclaims any personal bias, he has not repudiated his aides, Siegman noted.

Moreover, he has gratuitously suggested that Jews should declare themselves as such.

“I am proud of being a Pole. Jews should be proud of being Jewish, “Walesa said, indicating he thought the two were mutually exclusive.

Mazowiecki tried to avoid the issue. But on Nov. 5, his campaign managers issued a news release that included a statement by a bishop attesting to his family’s Christian roots since the 15th century.

The letter to Glemp expressed “regret” that the Polish Church has so far delayed publication of a document on Christian-Jewish relations. It had been expected last month to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Vatican’s Nostra Aetate declaration, which laid out the church’s attitude toward non-Christian faiths, notably Judaism.

“We are disappointed that the anniversary of Nostra Aetate passed virtually unobserved in Poland,” the letter said. “We believe the time has come for the Polish Church to disseminate as strong a message as possible to all the faithful in all their churches, declaring that anti-Semitism, in whatever form, has no place in Polish life.”

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