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May 4, 2018

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 4, 2018 A participant at the lOth anniversary celebration of the Krakow blowing a shofar, April 22, 2018. Jakub Wlodek Jewish Community Center in Jonathan Ornstein lighting Krakow, April 22, 2018. fireworks at the lOth Jakub Wlodek anniversary celebration of the JCC By Cnaan Liphshiz munity. But not all of them heritage sites and one of the share Ornstein's optimism few old Polish cities that was KRAKOW, Poland (JTA)-- in a country whose nation- spared major damage during At one of Poland's plushest alist government recently WorldWar II. synagogues, leaders of this unleashed what critics say is The city celebrates its an- city'ssmallbutvibrantJewish oneoftheworstwavesofanti- cient Jewish heritage at the communitywelcomedvisitors Semitic rhetoric in decades, annual Jewish Festival, one of from around the world to a Several blocks away from thelargesteventsofitskindin celebration of what the hosts the JCC, volunteers of the Europe. The city's seven large call their minority's"revival" Czulent association of Jewish synagogues--of which three in this country, students are converting the are active--swing open their The occasion for the party cellar of their building--a doors for one night a year, at- Sunday at Tempel Synagogue formerapartmentsynagogue, tractingthousandsofvisitors. was the 10th anniversary of or shtiebel--into what Czu- On the way to the nearby the adjacent Jewish Com- lent founderAnnaMakowka- museum on the grounds munity Center of Krakow, Kwapisiewicz calls a "safe of the former Auschwitz located in the heart of the space." It's essentially a room death camp, hundreds of city's historic Jewish quarter, where Jews can hole up in the thousands of tourists pass Kazimierz. event of an emergency, through Krakow's pictur- Since its opening in 2008, "It's not something I esque streets, some of them the three-story building, thoughtI'dbedoinginPoland featuring Jewish-flavored with its club for some 60 Ho- even five years ago," she said shops and restaurants with locaust survivors and newly about the shelter. Yiddish signs. Many visit the opened Jewish kindergarten, Makowka-Kwapisiewicz grounds ofOskar Schindler's has become a symbol for the said her confidence began to factory, where the German return of Jewish community recede two years ago, when industrialist savedhundreds lifeto the city nearAuschwitz, five men harassedandintimi- of Jews. where the Nazis obliterated dated Jewish boys playing at The playground incident centuries of Jewish presence, a playground in a poor area came one year after the 2015 "As we have grown, we of Krakow because one was electionoftheright-wingLaw have also been able to share wearing a kippah. One of the and Justice party, whichsome the story of Krakow's Jewish men spat on a Jewish child at leaders of Polish Jewry and revivalwithhundredsofthou- the playground while shout- others accuse of encouraging sands of visitors," a beaming ing at both kids. or tolerating a wave of xeno- Jonathan Ornstein, the New The boys' parents neverphobic incidents, including York-born director of JCC pressed charges, which is against Jews. Krakow, told the 200 people why the incident was not The taboo on open expres- attending the anniversary widely reportedin the media, sionsofhatredtowardJewsin party. "Thank you for letting said a mother of one of the Poland, where the Nazis killed me be a part of the bright, boys, according to Makowka- millions of Jews in the 1940s, beautifulJewishfutureweare Kwapisiewicz, whoworks for began to loosen in 2015, building together." the international nonprofit said Makowka-Kwapisiewicz. Many ofKrakow's hundreds National Democratic Insti- That year, a far-right activist of Jewish residents acknowl- tute. burned the effigy of a haredi edge the progress made Since the fall of commu- OrthodoxJewduringamarch since communism, which nism, such incidents were against Muslim immigration droveundergroundwhatlittle unheard of in Krakow, ain Wroclaw. remained of its Jewish com- tourist magnet for its Jewish "I never expected I would Every day that you're outside, you're exposed to dangerous, but invisible, ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. Left unprotected, prolonged exposure to UV radiation can seriously damage the eye, leading to cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelid and other eye disorders. Protecting your eyes is important to maintaining eye health now and in the future. Shield your eyes (and your family's eyes) from liarmful UY rays. Wear sunglasses with maximum U protection. live in such circumstances," she added. More recently, in Novem- ber, tens of thousands of nationalists marched through Warsaw shouting "Jews out" and other racist slogans while carrying banners against Islam. Two weeks after the march, aWarsaw mosque that for years was targeted with threats was vandalized. "When places of worship are beingattacked, we need to pre- pare," Makowka-Kwapisiewicz said of the shelter her group is preparing. Against this backdrop, the president of the Union of Jew- ish Communities in Poland, Leslaw Piszewski, and Anna Chipczynska, who heads the Warsaw community, wrote last year to a founder of Law and Justice to say that they are "appalled by recent events and fearful for our security as the situation in our country is becoming more dangerous." Things went from bad to worse following a row between Poland and Israel over Warsaw passing a law in January that criminalizes blaming the Pol- ish nation for Nazi crimes. The dispute unleashed the worst wave of anti-Semitism since the fall of the Iron Curtain, according to Rafal Pankowski, co-founder of the Polish anti- racism group Never Again. In the wake of the fight over the law, he told JTA: "In the space of one month, I have seen more anti-Semitic hate speech than in the previous 10 years combined." At least one person reported an assault that he suspected was anti-Semitic: The Catho- lic journalist Bogdan Bialek said he was attacked by a person who shouted about Bialek's efforts to commemo- rate victims of an anti-Semitic pogrom in Kielce in 1946. Poland lacks a systematic effort by the state to collect data on attacks against mi- nority groups, according to Amnesty International, "meaning that authorities have no way of knowing the scope of the problem," the group said. The tsunami of hate speech about Jews was conducted mostly on social networks, where calls to "stuff TNT up Pankowski's ass" and "punch him" were recorded after a government official singled him out for attack on Twitter. But since January, several Polish politicians and promi- nent figures have joined the Twitter rabble. Beata Mazurek, the spokes- woman for Law and Justice and a deputy parliament speaker, favorably tweeted a quote from a Catholic priest who said that the Israeli am- bassador's criticism of the Holocaust bill "made it hard for me to look at Jews with sympathy and kindness." TVP, a public television station, aired an interview with a priest who said that the Jews' perception of the truth is whatever is "beneficial" to them or Israel. And the Do Reczy conservative weekly published a drawing showing two silhouettes--one bearing a swastika and the other a Star of David--pointing a gun at a third figure emblazoned with the Polish flag. Last month, Kornel Morawiecki, a former sena- tor whose son, Mateusz, became prime minister last year, said in an interview that Jews moved gladly into ghettos during the Holocaust to avoid having "to deal with those nasty Poles," as the ex- senator put it. Government officials have consistently vowed to act tough on nationalist extrem- ism, "but at the same time they are encouraging it, creat- ing a schizophrenic attitude," Makowka-Kwapisiewicz said. Despite the rhetoric, many Poles still say their country is safer for their religious mi- norities than many Western European countries, where Islamists and other extremists are responsible for hundreds of physical assaults on Jews, including deadly ones. "OK, the situation is less comfortable than one year ago," Peter Nawrocki, a 44-year-old computer sci- ence university professor, told JTA at the JCC celebration. "Extremists are a problem. But this is not France." Nawrocki is confident that Poland is good place to raise his 1-year-old son, Shimon. "I think Poland is one of the safest places in Europe to be Jewish," he said, citing the absence in recent years of a violent hate crime attack on a Jew. Anna Swies, a Jewish- American investment consul- tant with Polish roots, traded Chicago for Krakow six years ago and married a local man. She said she feels "connected" to her true identity here. Hav- ing a luxury Jewish kindergar- ten for her two children, aged 4 and 6, for a fraction of what a comparable institution would cost in the United States "also helps," she said. But like Makowka- Kwapisiewicz--she said she would like to leave at least for one year or two--other JCC regulars are having a tough time envisioning a future for themselves here because of rising xenophobia. Serhii Chupryna, a Ukraini- an-Jewish studentwho settled in Krakow in 2013 for his stud- ies, said he feels significantly less comfortable living in Poland than he did when he first arrived. As a gay man, "I feel like I'm everything the ultranationalists here hate rolled into one person," he joked. Adding that "Ukraine is no better," he said he plans to save some money and move to Israel in a few years. The JCC, with an annual budget of $1.5 million,was set up with help from the World Jewish Relief group in the United Kingdom and the American Jewish Joint Distri- bution Committee. Chupryna said it has become "something of a safe space" amid growing expressions of hostility. The current reality in Po- land makes the JCC's mission "even more critical," said Dan Rosenfield, the chair of the World Jewish Relief group, which provides the institution with $140,000 annually. In recent weeks, "things have calmed down a little bit" when it comes to expressions of anti-Semitism, Jonathan Ornstein, the JCC director, told JTA. But even at the height of the anti-Semitic wave, Krakow Jews have not experienced direct assaults, he added. Nonetheless, young people who are now discovering their Jewish ancestry--many Jewish Poles hid it during communism--"are starting to question their place in Po- land moving forward," he said. The new challenges, Orn- stein suggested, "are a re- minder of how we've taken for granted all these incred- ible positive changes in Po- land. When something bad happens, it's shocking for us, which is maybe a sign of how good we've come to expect things to be."