The Hidden Jews of Poland

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Poland was home to more than 3,000,000 Jews.

Ninety percent of Polish Jewry was annihilated in the Holocaust, and post-war Communist oppression caused many of Poland’s remaining Jews to flee. Those who stayed often had to hide their identities.

But since the downfall of the Iron Curtain, and Poland’s transformation into a democracy, an increasing number of Poles have begun to discover their families’ Jewish roots.

These include young people whose Jewish parents or grandparents were put up for adoption with Polish families and institutions in a desperate attempt to save them from the Nazi onslaught nearly seven decades ago.

Raised as Polish Catholics, many have only recently learned of their true Jewish identity, leading them to play an active role in rebuilding Jewish life.

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The annual seminar in Israel

During the summer we invite a selective group of descendants of “Poland’s hidden Jews.” The seminar is aimed specifically at young adults. The participants come to Israel for five weeks and spend time travelling the country, studying Hebrew, Jewish sources, Jewish philosophy, Jewish history, Jewish Law and so forth. Shavei Israel’s hope for the seminar is that they will make a connection with their roots in an emotional exciting way. The seminars other intent is to educate these young adults to go back to their communities and become active members and assist our emissaries in programs and activities.

The annual seminar in Poland

During 26-28 of October 2007, the first seminar for descendants of “Poland’s hidden Jews” was held in Poland under Shavei Israel’s sponsorship. Young people and adults participated, descendants of Polish Jews, who for various reasons abandoned actively practicing Judaism. However, their descendants expressed their desire to return to their roots. Shavei Israel’s leaders, Chairman Michael Freund and Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, were among the speakers. Rabbis from various Polish communities also participated. Students participated in a special panel. On the last day, there was be a tour of Krakow.

Sending emissaries

Shavei Israel has two emissaries in Poland: Rabbi Boaz Pasch in Krakow and Rabbi Isaac Rapoport in Wroclaw. Both of them invest their best efforts and extend their hand to anyone interested in returning to their Jewish roots, as well accompanying those who are already in the conversion process. Both communities are very active and anybody who is interested can experience the Jewish life cycle personally and excitingly.

Publishing an informative bulletin

Shavei Israel publishes an informative monthly bulletin, dedicated to the Polish people. The bulletin contains a great deal of information about Judaism, Jewish holidays, Philosophy, Halachah, tradition and history. This publication will join the other existing ones in Spanish, Portuguese, Mizo, Kuki and English.

Publishing materials on Judaism

As part of the accompanying and support process that Shavei Israel grants to the “hidden Jews” who wish to return to their Jewish heritage, the organization published various materials connected with Judaism in Hebrew, Polish and transliterations. Among the publications can be found the Grace After Meals, Prayer for the Sick, the Traveler’s Prayer and the Blessing of the Children.


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