European Jewish Congress
The Jewish Community of Poland
Gmin Wyznaniowych Zydowskich
Latest news from the community
Polish school honours 87 girls expelled by the Nazis
A school in Poland unveiled a plaque on Tuesday that commemorates 87 Jewish girls who were expelled in 1939 during the Nazi occupation of the country.
Read more

The Jewish Community of Poland

History

Jewish life in Poland dates back over a millennium. The 'Jewish story' in Poland is defined by the community's fluctuating political status over the ages, with epochs of equality and prosperity and eras rife with pogroms, deportations and anti-Semitism.

Fleeing persecutions in Western and Central Europe, Jews found sanctuary in Poland. By the middle of the 16th century, about 80% of world Jewry lived on would-be Polish lands. From the 16th to the 18th century, Jews enjoyed a unique form of self-government called the Council of Four Lands (Va’ad Arba Aratsot), which functioned as a Jewish council. However, from 1648 to 1649, Cossack hordes led by Bogdan Chmielnicki massacred the Jews of Eastern Poland (present-day Ukraine). It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 Jews perished at that time. After that dreadful episode, much of Polish Jewry was impoverished, and Poland became a fertile ground for messianic leaders such as Sabbatai (Shabbtai) Tzvi and Jacob Frank. Later it gave birth to the Chassidic movement.

Toward the end of the 19th century, when most of Poland was part of the anti-Semitic Czarist Russia, a great wave of emigration began, and Polish Jews immigrated to the United States, Canada, Argentina, Germany, France, and the Land of Israel.

In the inter-war period of the 20th century, when Poland regained independence, despite the government’s often hostile policies, Polish Jewry represented one of the most creative communities in the Diaspora.

During the Shoah, some 3,300,000 Jews lived in the country, constituting the second-largest Jewish community in the world. Warsaw alone had over 300,000 Jews. About 85% of Polish Jewry was wiped out in the Holocaust, and many Jews from other countries were deported to Poland and killed in the Nazi extermination camps.

After the WWII, most of the survivors refused to return to (or remain in) Poland, which was rocked by civil war and anti-Semitic outrages. Emigration accelerated after the Polish-led pogrom in Kielce in July 1946, which claimed the lives of over 40 Jews. Although the situation eventually stabilised, the Jewish population continued to shrink through successive waves of emigration.

Demography

Nowadays, Warsaw is home to the great majority of Polish Jews, but there are also communities in Krakow, Lodz, Szczecin, Gdansk, and in several cities in Upper and Lower Silesia, notably in Katowice and Wroclaw. In the last few years, there has been a reawakening of Jewish consciousness. Young people of Jewish origin who had no knowledge about their Judaism are joining the community.

Community

The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (UJRCP) is the umbrella organisation uniting all Jewish Communities. It represents the voice of Polish Jews towards the state authorities and other organisations at home and abroad. The UJRCP is the heir and continuator of a long tradition of Jewish Communities in Poland.

The UJRCP achieves its primary objectives by helping and supporting the Communities, providing social aid for Holocaust survivors, operating kosher cafeterias, renovating the derelict buildings and maintaining in a good state the Jewish cemeteries.

Besides that, the UJRCP carries out varied educational activities – lectures, discussion sessions and meetings all over Poland. The main subjects are Jewish history and tradition as well as the contemporary life.

Private kosher restaurants can be found in Warsaw and Krakow. Kosher meat and other foodstuffs are available, and in recent years, Poland has become an important centre for the production of kosher spirits.

The Community runs the Senior Club, the Club for Jewish Children and Youth and religious classes as well as projects created with a wider audience in mind, such as the festival ‘Open Twarda Street’, educational programs for Warsaw schools, lectures and workshops dedicated to Jewish tradition, art, music, exhibitions and concerts.

Religious life

There are synagogues in most of the towns mentioned above. Some of them are historic monuments, such as the Remu Synagogue and the Templum in Krakow, and the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw.

Sites

In Warsaw there are a number of sites connected with the ghetto uprising and the life of the city’s once vibrant community. These include the central ghetto monument, designed by Natan Rapoport and the exhibition at the Jewish Historical Institute, which also houses a collection of paintings by Polish-Jewish artists.

In Krakow, a number of old synagogues can still be visited, among them the Remu and the 14th-century Stara Synagoga (the oldest in Poland), which today houses a Jewish museum. The Galicia Jewish Museum offers classes in Yiddish Language Instruction and workshops on Yiddish Songs. The museum has taken steps to revive the culture through concerts and events held on site.

Lodz is the site of one of the largest Jewish burial grounds in Europe. Of particular interest are the mausoleums of the city’s great textile magnates. Many of the smaller towns contain remnants of the Jewish presence. Among the most noteworthy is the town of Tykocin (near Bialystok), which has a magnificent 17th-century synagogue recently restored to its former grandeur.

The sites of former killing and concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and Treblinka, are a magnet for Jewish visitors. No trace remains of Treblinka and the grounds are the site of a powerful monument consisting of thousands of shards of broken stone.

Israel

As far as the relations with Israel are concerned, Poland resumed full diplomatic relations in 1990 after a hiatus of 23 years. Since 1948, 171,471 Polish Jews have emigrated to Israel, 106,414 of them between 1948 and 1951.

Contact

Union of Jewish Communities in Poland
Gmina Wyznaniowa ¯ydowska w Warszawie
PRESIDENT : Leslaw Piszewski
Pl. Grzybowski 12/16 00-104 Warszawa
Tel : 48 22 620 0554
Fax : 48 22 620 0559
Email : sekretariat@jewish.org.pl

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Life in Israel
  • China's tech money heads for Israel as US economy wanes
    Struggling to seal deals in the United States as regulatory scrutiny tightens, Chinese companies looking to invest in promising technology are finding a warmer welcome for their cash in Israel.

    On Friday, May 19, 2017 China's tech money heads for Israel as US economy wanes
  • Pre-Six Day War Israel gets its own Twitter account
    Most years just come and go, but 1967 has made a remarkable comeback on social media, thanks to Israeli Foreign Ministry efforts to mark the 50th year since the reunification of Jerusalem.

    On Friday, May 19, 2017 Pre-Six Day War Israel gets its own Twitter account
  • First female judge appointed to Sharia court
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked installed the first ever female judge, or qadi, for Israel’s Sharia court system on Monday in Jerusalem, along with three other regional qadis.

    On Friday, May 19, 2017 First female judge appointed to Sharia court
  • April set all-time record for tourism in Israel
    More tourists visited Israel last month than in any other month since the establishment of the state, the Tourism Ministry said on Tuesday.

    On Thursday, May 11, 2017 April set all-time record for tourism in Israel
  • Galillee Jewish-Arab tech colaboration shoots for the moon
    When Asaf Brimer left the Israeli air force in 2008 after serving for 27 years as a fighter pilot and taking part in four of the nation’s wars, he spent six years in the military industry but then decided it wasn’t for him.

    On Thursday, May 11, 2017 Galillee Jewish-Arab tech colaboration shoots for the moon
  • On Israel's 69th birthday population reaches 8.68 million
    As Israel prepares to celebrate its 69th birthday, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced on Thursday that the Jewish state today has 8.68 million citizens, ten times more than at its founding in 1948.

    On Friday, April 28, 2017 On Israel's 69th birthday population reaches 8.68 million
  • Israel pauses to remember Holocaust victims
    Israel came to a standstill as people stopped in their tracks for a two-minute siren that wailed across the country in remembrance of the Holocaust’s 6 million Jewish victims.

    On Friday, April 28, 2017 Israel pauses to remember Holocaust victims
  • European Judo Championships to be held in Israel
    The European Judo Union has confirmed that Israel will host the European Championships next year.

    On Friday, April 28, 2017 European Judo Championships to be held in Israel
  • Tel Aviv to house world's first construction tech hub
    With hopes of revitalising an industry that has been slow to modernise, a team of Israeli government and business partners launched the world’s first “Construction Innovation Zone” on Thursday morning.

    On Friday, April 28, 2017 Tel Aviv to house world's first construction tech hub
  • Israel treating thousands of Syrians injured in war
    Seven wounded Syrians — two children, four women and a man — waited in pain for darkness to fall to cross into enemy territory.

    On Friday, April 14, 2017 Israel treating thousands of Syrians injured in war
President's Page Security and Crisis Centre by EJC European Parliament Working Group On Antisemitism