Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A clash between Jews in Krakow highlights growing acceptance of Chabad in Europe

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

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Maimonides says that the highest level of giving charity is helping a person become self-sufficient.

Today, think of someone who needs a job and try to do what you can to help him earn money. You might help him get a job interview or you might think of some marketable skill that you could help him develop.

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In August I will be going to Krakow--here is what I will face

I hope things will be better in the Jewish community by then, but here are some stories of what happened last week in Krakow Poland. Who knows who is right?

Travel tips:

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased. John Steinbeck

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. Saint Augustine

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. George A. Moore

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. Martin Buber

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love. Ernest Hemingway

A clash between Jews in Krakow highlights growing acceptance of Chabad in Europe

Pictures of a standoff between armed guards and Jewish worshippers in front of a locked synagogue shocked people abroad, but it's only one side of a lengthy European power struggle

By Cnaan Liphshiz

When burly guards working for the Jewish Community of Krakow blocked the entrance to a Chabad-run synagogue, it was the culmination of a series of clashes between the local establishment and the Hasidic outreach movement.

That scene on Monday also echoed numerous previous clashes – some physical — across Europe.

In 2016, guards working for the Jewish Community of Lithuania ejected the Chabad emissary to that country, Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, and his followers from one synagogue. Krinsky was officially banned from entering another synagogue in 2017. In 2004, a similar showdown in Vilnius ended in a brawl.

They are extreme examples of tensions that pit relatively small Jewish community associations concerned with preserving traditions (and sometimes control of restitution money) against what they perceive as ideologically driven outsiders. The local "communities" — that is, officially sanctioned governing bodies that represent Jewish interests — often accuse the haredi Orthodox Chabad of displaying little sensitivity, patience and diplomatic skills in dealing with native co-religionists.

Chabad denies the claim, saying the young, charismatic rabbi-and-wife teams they send to establish synagogues and Jewish centers across Europe are providing essential services for historic Jewish populations depleted by time and tragedy. The movement says it opens doors to Judaism for Jews of all backgrounds, despite its adherence to strict Orthodox practice.

Locked gates of Izaak Synagogue, Krakow, July 1, 2019 (Courtesy Rabbi Avi Baumol)

The Krakow version of this week's clash was sparked by a property dispute between the Chabad-run Izaak Synagogue and the Jewish Community of Krakow, from which it rents the space. Men hired by the community — their faces masked under balaclavas — blocked the synagogue doors while worshippers gathered to pray on the sidewalk. Pictures of the standoff shocked people abroad.

In a sign of growing acceptance of Chabad in Europe, the Krakow incident sparked vocal protests even from top religious representatives of groups seen as Chabad's rivals.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, which has clashed frequently with Chabad, called the synagogue's closure "immoral and opposed to Jewish tradition."

Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, who is not Chabad, on Tuesday criticized his own colleagues — in fact, his own employers — for what he described as a greedy power grab that harms the city's most active Jewish Orthodox congregation.

Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich in Warsaw, Poland on January 18, 2019 (Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images via JTA)

It was especially disturbing to Schudrich because "the Izaak Shul is the one place in Kraków with a steady daily minyan," or prayer service, he wrote in an usual open letter to Tadeusz Jakubowicz, the longtime leader of the Jewish Community of Krakow. Jakubowicz is a member of the Executive Board of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland, where Schudrich also works.

Schudrich praised Rabbi Eliezer Gurary, the Chabad movement's emissary to Poland, and Rabbi Avi Baumol, a regular at Izaak Synagogue, for their "Torah learning and Jewish values."

"Thanks to them and to many others, the Izaak Shul is fulfilling the responsibility of our Jewish community in Kraków," the chief rabbi wrote. "This should be supported and applauded. Instead, the electricity was cut off and then the water was cut off. And this morning armed masked guards were posted to prevent Jews from attending the morning minyan."

Schudrich's statement was extraordinary as well in that it framed the dispute in terms of money — especially the Jewish property administered by the community since the Holocaust.

Armed guards posted in front of the Izaak Synagogue, Krakow, July 1, 2019 (Courtesy Rabbi Avi Baumol)

He wrote that the Jewish Community of Krakow is "the heir of Jewish communal property and therefore is responsible and obligated to use these properties to enrich Jewish life and observance in Krakow and not to treat them as private properties, only concerned with maximizing profit.

According to the community, the dispute was not over rent but damage caused to the synagogue by the Chabad-led congregation. Gurary denies the assertion.

Critics of the community association object to what they call the opaque management style of Jakubowicz and his daughter, Helena, who runs the real estate portfolio.

The Jewish Community of Krakow has only a few dozen members in a city with hundreds of Jews. Critics also say that its many assets, restituted after the Holocaust, should not be under the control of such a small group.

The Facebook cover photo for Hevre in Krakow shows that it's a trendy destination. (Hevre Cafe/Facebook via JTA)

Ironically, perhaps, the Jewish Community of Krakow is fending off accusations over another of its properties: a former synagogue that renters are being allowed to run as a bar and cafe. Reform Jews and others have said that the bar's operators are damaging the historical building, but the community denies it.

Schudrich leads an umbrella group that unites regional Jewish communities that follow the European Kultusgemeinde ("gmina" in Polish) model – essentially associations reserved to card-carrying members who pay fees and vote on key issues. Chabad operates on the American model of private congregations that depend on individual donations or funding from an external private source.

The latest clash in Krakow comes amid growing cooperation between Chabad figures and established Jewish communities across Europe. This rapprochement in Holland, France, Germany, Russia and beyond follows intense friction in the 1990s and 2000s over control and status in several of those communities.

"The big fight was in 2000, we're now in 2019," said Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow. "I think people today are interested to get on with it and to be as beneficial to the community as possible. We have to try to put struggles behind us and come to a modus vivendi between all parts of the community," he said.

Jonathan Ornstein, director of the JCC Krakow, attending the institution's 10th anniversary party at Tempel Synagogue, April 22, 2018. (Jakub Wlodek/via JTA)

In France, Chabad rabbis effectively run the Jewish education system where many non-Chabad communal leaders send their children, raising its institutions to unprecedented excellence.

In Holland, one of the established community's most prominent rabbis, Binyomin Jacobs, has the official title of the chief rabbi of the Inter-Provincial Chief Rabbinate of the Netherlands. He works from the established community's headquarters at an office adjacent to that of the chairman of the Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands.

Yehuda Teichtal, the head emissary of Chabad to Germany, is officially a rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berlin and considered by many to be its chief rabbi.

In Russia, where Chabad and non-Chabad leaders clashed openly 15 years ago, they signed a cooperation agreement two years ago in which they formally buried the hatchet.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

In some places, peace was achieved because Chabad won the fight. This appears to be the case in Russia, where the movement enjoys the backing of President Vladimir Putin. (In 2005, Goldschmidt, the non-Chabad chief rabbi of Moscow, was temporarily forced to leave the country because his visa had been revoked under unclear circumstances and then returned.) In others, as in Holland, shrinking Kultusgemeindes co-opted well-connected and industrious Chabad rabbis into the establishment in recognition of their contribution.

Friction and even open conflicts between Chabadniks and their peers continue to plague some communities, though.

In Hungary, the Mazsihisz Jewish community has accused the local Chabad group, EMIH, of abetting a government-led campaign to distort the Holocaust. EMIH has rejected the allegation and accused Mazsihisz of using allegations of anti-Semitism for partisan goals. The two umbrella groups, which had coexisted quietly for many years, recently descended into open conflict, even on how to honor the remains of Holocaust victims.

Even there, however, there are signs that Chabad is gaining recognition.

In October, Robert Frolich, the rabbi of the Dohany Synagogue, said at a roundtable discussion last year: "We need to accept that Chabad is part of Jewish community life in Hungary, let's not work against it."

Rabbi Slomo Koves, right, and a participant at Chabad Hungary's 2015 Hanukkah on Ice event take selfies at Budapest's City Park Ice Rink, December 6, 2015. (Courtesy of EMIH/via JTA)

The head of EMIH, Slomo Koves, said this recognition owes in no small part to how "Chabad has grown in Hungary and throughout Europe as [Kultusgemeinde] communities diminished."

His group, which was a small stakeholder in Hungarian Jewry 30 years ago, has 17 rabbis now working in Hungary — more than any other denomination.

In Poland, too, some community members were upset when Chabad rabbis met an influential politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, saying they papered over the right-wing government's record on anti-Semitism.

In countries like Hungary and Poland, where the government gives Holocaust restitution and funding to Jewish groups, the fight between the established community and Chabad has been complicated by competition for resources and status.

But even in Western Europe, where governments offer less funding to religious groups and minorities, the expansion of Chabad was perceived as bad news by communal leaders when a rabbi from the movement opened a synagogue in Switzerland in 2012.

"We're not so happy about the synagogue," Joel Weill, the Basel Jewish community's head of administration, said at the time. "We fear it will further divide the community. We have 1,000 people who go to synagogues. This isn't New York."

In Greece, Victor Eliezer, a vice president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, said in 2016 that Chabad brings "extremism and fanaticism that is totally alien to the Jewish community" of his country.

Chief Rabbi of Poland can't enter locked Krakow Synagogue in stand off

Polish society, world Jewry and Krakow residents watch on as Jewish community leader refuses to budge down. By Hagay Hacohen

Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich was barred entry to the the historical Izaak Synagogue in Krakow on Thursday evening, in a shocking event in which a chief rabbi was barred from a house of prayer in the country he is meant to oversee.

He and Krakow JCC leader Jonathan Orinstein attempted to break into the locked historical house of prayer in a standoff that has been going on for days, shocking Jews and non-Jews in Poland and the world. 


Police were called and both Schudrich and Orinstein were asked to prove their identity.

The dramatic closure Synagogue by Jewish community leaders caused an uproar as two rabbis and their community were tossed into the street on Thursday.

Led by Rabbi Eliezer Gurary and Rabbi Avi Baumol, the congregation prayed the morning service outside while facing a locked Izaak Synagogue, with security guards watching them. The congregation was on the outside looking in after some 10 years of prayer and learning at the historical Jewish heritage site reportedly over money and bitter disputes about who controls Jewish assets in Poland.

During a protest on Wednesday, Baumol said that the official leadership of the Krakow Jewish community is an "obstacle" to Jewish life in Poland, and that "they've been against us. We tried to keep it quiet, because it's not very nice to tell the world that we Jews are fighting with each other," he said to the crowd, "but when they close the doors of our synagogue… we say the buck stops here. We have to call upon the Jews of the world and the people of the world to join us and say this is enough; this is a shame."

Jewish protesters in Krakow call for reopening of synagogue, the sign on the right reads 'Jewish community is not only for the Jakubowicz family / Courtesy Most Recent Videos from the Jerusalem Post Top articles1/5READ MORE

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"Jews don't use synagogues to make money from," he explained.

Residents of Krakow, both Jews and non-Jews, took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the decision of the official Jewish community to close Izaak Synagogue and place armed guards there.

Shlomi Shaked, an Israeli who is active in the Krakow community, called it "a violent take-over" in a social media post, which included photos of the guards.

The protesters, roughly 100 Jewish and non-Jewish people, carried signs saying, "Let Jews pray" and "Jewish community is not only the Jakubowicz family," in reference to the head of the official Jewish community, Tadeusz Jakubowicz. His daughter Helena serves as his second in the official Jewish community.

According to Orenstein, head of the Krakow JCC, the majority of the protesters were Jews and pro-Jewish Catholics who felt the recent move by the community was simply too much.

A sign held in a Krakow protest against official Jewish leadership / ONATHAN ORNSTEIN

Jakubowicz's daughter was also criticized in a sign that said her being the community vice president – under her father the president – is "corruption." Other signs pleaded for help from Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The signs said, "WJC, AJC, JDC help us!"

Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum called it an "ugly, vicious, anti-Jewish act of the organized Jewish community against the rebirth of Jewish life in Krakow," in an article released on social media on Wednesday. "In Krakow, the holdings of the Jewish community are significant – and yet these vital resources have been treated as if the community was a private business," Berenbaum wrote, "intent on maximizing profit with no responsibilities for the continuation and the enhancement of Jewish life."

Berenbaum added that the Izaak Synagogue was renovated thanks to donations of Jews from around the world and not by the Jewish community, which now hung a sign outside calling it private property.

SPEAKING WITH The Jerusalem Post, Gurary said that members of the official Jewish leadership "are corrupt – they threw out members on made-up charges to prevent votes against them... they stole the board and nobody can do anything to them." Gurary explained that in Poland, Jewish religious matters cannot be addressed by the Polish court because of "inside law," meaning only Jewish community members can rule on their own affairs.

The Jewish community has attempted to remove the Jews who have been praying in the synagogue by shutting off water and power and increasing the rent. According to Gurary, Chabad had been renting the synagogue since 2008 for 3,000 PLN (Polish zlotys – $800) per month.

"It used to a museum," he said, "and Chabad changed it into a place in which prayers are held every day; we have classes for everyone." He added that it's one of the few places where kosher food is available.

He slammed the official Jewish community leadership because "they don't see it as a synagogue. They see it as real estate."

Gurary explained that the official community increased the rent to 25,000 PLN ($6,650) per month and requested 170,000 PLN ($45,000) in back payments – a sum they have now increased, he said, to 300,000 PLN ($80,000).

Since the mail service was stopped, Gurary was unaware that there was a court case being held against him and was unable to attend it. The court ended up ruling without hearing his side. He stated that when the court became aware of it, a new session was scheduled for September.

On Monday, the gates of the synagogue were chained and armed guards placed there to prevent entry to the serving rabbis and Jews who use the house of worship. "They came like thieves in the night," Gurary said, "and changed the locks and placed armed guards for 300,000 PLN."

In response to the protest, the Management Board of the Jewish Religious Community in Krakow released a statement saying: "The Jewish Religious Community would like to emphasize that its actions are aimed solely at protecting the Jewish heritage of Krakow."

The board explained that it felt people were threatening the existence of the synagogue by illegally connecting external power sources without required permits, posing a fire threat, as well as taking actions that were unauthorized. For instance, "the removal of historic doors, the fence of the narthex, and a number of other damages and negligence requiring urgent intervention."

The board also insisted that it is not bound by any rental agreement to allow Chabad to occupy the premises, since the agreement had expired.

Schudrich told the Post that the first step right now is to get the Jews who were tossed out to the street their tallitot and tefillin. "We need to reopen the shul," he said.

Chief Polish rabbi climbs fence of barricaded Krakow synagogue

(JTA) — Police in Krakow briefly detained the chief rabbi of Poland after he tried to climb the fence of a synagogue whose congregation has been evicted by leaders of that city's Jewish community.

In the unusual incident Thursday at Krakow's Izaak Synagogue, Rabbi Michael Schudrich was asked to explain his actions and present his identity card to police officers monitoring a protest rally outside the synagogue, which Schudrich attended.

The protest by several dozen people was over the eviction of a congregation led by Chabad rabbi from the synagogue by the Jewish Community of Krakow, which owns it. The Chabad rabbi, Eliezer Gurary, had worked there for years with the consent of the Jewish Community of Krakow, the official representative of the city's Jewish community and a non-profit which is a member of Schudrich's Union of Jewish Communities of Poland.

The Jewish Community of Krakow, which hired security guards to prevent Gurary's congregation fron entering the building, said in a statement that Gurary's congregants had damaged the synagogue, though Gurary has denied this. Schudrich in a statement Tuesday condemned the eviction.

A standoff situation evolved, in which dozens of Jewish protesters, many from Gurary's congregation, came Wednesday and Thursday to protest the synagogue's closure. Schudrich on Thursday joined the protest and climbed the fence as media filmed the incident.

The Jewish Community of Krakow has a few dozen official members and is run by Tadeusz Jakubowicz and his daughter, Helena. It owns property worth millions of dollars.

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Little know founding facts for the US since we are in July

  • In July 1776, an estimated 2.5 million people lived in the 13 colonies. According to recent projections, there are 330 million residents as of July 1, 2019.
  • The oldest signer, at age 70, was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania. Franklin County, Pa., had an estimated population of 154,835 on July 1, 2018. There are 24 counties named Franklin in the United States.
  • The youngest signer, at age 26, was Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. There are no counties named Rutledge.


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Short Film: Hidden Treasure – Four Incredible Stories of the Lubavitcher Rebb

The Lubavitcher Rebbe in action, as he excavates precious gems. The Baal Shem Tov taught that just as the earth holds the deepest treasures, so does every Jew contain precious stones and gems, untapped potential that can be brought forth. All that's needed is for someone to dig deep, find the richness, and bring it to the fore. Watch as the Rebbe digs deep into four souls, reveals their brilliance, and sets them forth to inspire others.

See you tomorrow-bii neder

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