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Schindler to Lead a Delegation of 24 Reform Jewish Leaders to Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Ceremonies

April 13, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), will lead a delegation of 24 Reform Jewish leaders to Poland to attend ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising next week.

“Our presence cannot be construed as support for the present government there or as endorsement of the suppression of human rights in Poland,” Schindler said.

“Rather, our purpose is to dedicate the restored synagogue in Warsaw, to visit the Jewish cemeteries we helped repair, to honor the memory of the heroes of the ghetto in the place where they died, and then to go on to Treblinka and Auschwitz to say Kaddish and to renew the vow that those who lie in unnamed graves will never be forgotten.”

Schindler recalled the cultural exchange agreement, signed in 1981, between the UAHC and the government, church and academic institutions in Poland, under which sacred objects, books and manuscripts, historical texts, paintings and other items that were thought destroyed in the Holocaust are being made available in the United States for exhibition, reproduction and scholarly study.

A special aspect of this program, Schindler said, was the raising of funds from Reform synagogues in the U.S. and Canada to help repair crumbling Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Thus far, he said, about $25,000 has been raised and seven cemeteries in Warsaw, Lublin, Bialystok, Lodz and Cracow have had restoration work begun.


In Warsaw the UAHC delegation will meet with Joseph Cardinal Glemp, Primate of Poland, and will be received at a reception in the American Embassy there, Schindler said. He painted out that participation of the UAHC in the ceremonies in Poland had been decided after “full consultation” with the U.S. State Department, which he said “urged us to go.”

Schindler will also take part in the rededication and reopening of the Nejeck synagogue in Warsaw. In behalf of Reform Jews in the U.S. and Canada, he will present to the congregation eight silver Torah ornaments from the collection of Mount Neboh Congregation in Manhattan.

More than 1,000 Jewish representatives from Western countries — including several hundred from Israel — are expected at the ceremonies. A highlight of the visit will be the official ceremonies in Warsaw’s Grand Opera House at which President Vladislav Jablonsky will represent the Polish government.

Schindler will address the gathering. Other scheduled speakers are: Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Rabbi Isaac Lewin, a leader of Agudath Israel of America; and Henry Taub, president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

The World Council of Synagogues, international branch of the Conservative movement, will be represented at the ceremonies through its vice president, Leon Jolson, as will the World Federation of Jewish Fighters, Partisans and Camp Inmates, headed by Stefan Grayek of Israel, its president.

The World Jewish Congress will be represented at the ceremonies by Greville Janner, M.P., of London, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and vice president of the WJC; Dr. Gerhart Riegner of Geneva, secretary general of the WJC; and Kalman Sultanik of New York, vice president of the WJC.

Yad Vashem, the Israel government-sponsored Holocaust museum and documentation center in Jerusalem, will be represented at the ceremonies by Zevulum Hammer, Israel’s Minister of Education.


Two U.S. Jewish groups have publicly opposed Jewish participation in the ceremonies. They are the Jewish Labor Committee and the Workmen’s Circle. A surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Marek Edelman of Lodz, rejected an invitation to serve on the Polish-government sponsored anniversary committee. He declared:

“To celebrate our anniversary here, where enslavement and humiliation is now the lot of a whole society, where words and gestures have become nothing but lies, would betray the spirit of our struggle … The true memory of the victims and heroes, of the eternal striving for truth and freedom, will be preserved in the silence of graves and of hearts.”

Commenting on this statement, Schindler said: “I recognize and appreciate Dr. Edelman’s feelings. There is no right or wrong here. Each of us must decide as the heart dictates.”

In Israel, Grayek also responded to Edelman’s contention by noting that he had argued with the former Warsaw Ghetto leader about it. Grayek charged that Edelman was a Socialist Bund leader in Poland and had always been anti-Zionist and had failed to speak out against anti-Semitic tendencies in his country. Grayek noted that the Israeli and Jewish delegations from the West will be drawing attention to the fate and heroism of the anti-Nazi fighters in Warsaw and in other ghettos.

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