Shabbos watching over her observers

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fot. by ap - Polish President Lech Kaczynski (left) and Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich (right)

When Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich received word on Saturday night (April 10) that Polish President Lech Kaczynski had been killed in a plane crash, along with 95 other members of the country’s elite, he knew that not only had a “great friend of Israel and the Jewish people” perished, but that his own life had been spared.

Schudrich had been invited to accompany the Polish delegation on its trip to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre near the Russian border with Belarus, and had only declined to go because the flight was on Shabbat.

I know that if it hadn’t been Shabbat, I would have been on that plane,” Schudrich told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from Warsaw on Sunday. It gives one great pause for thought.

However, the point is the tragedy which has befallen the Polish people, and that the Jewish people have lost a real friend,” he said.

Kaczynski had “cared greatly for the Jews, and fought to memorialize both the Holocaust and the contribution of Jews to Polish society,Schudrich said.

He was very helpful to the [Jewish] community. He was a strong friend of Israel, and we will all miss him.

The rabbi explained that since the onset of democracy in Poland, which came with the rise to power of the Solidarity Movement in 1989 and the election of president Lech Walesa in 1990, a Polish embrace of its Jewish past had been “steadily rising.”

Walesa took the first steps with his [1991] visit to Israel and speech to the Knesset,Schudrich said. “And each [president since] has taken it to the next level.

There has been a very steady progression of Polish recognition of the country’s Jewish past and friendship toward Israel over the last 20 years, and it’s never slipped back.”

Reflecting on the fact that Kaczynski’s death came a day before the beginning of  Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, Schudrich also mentioned that Poland had lost six million citizens during World War II – three million of whom were Jews.

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via Gazeta Wyborcza

Those three million [Jewish] deaths made up 90 percent of the Polish Jewish population,” Schudrich said. “The three million non-Jewish Poles made up 10% of the country’s entire population, which constitutes a horrible tragedy on its own. In some ways, this country is still overcoming the loss it experienced in WWII.

Read more at jpost.com

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