Poles and Jews are like cousins: Poland’s chief rabbi

Speaking to the Super Express daily, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich said that Poles and Jews are like cousins who are sometimes at odds, adding that people know that family arguments can be very intense.

Rabbi Schudrich also expressed the opinion that the similarities between Poland and Israel sometimes make it difficult for the two countries to communicate.

The chief rabbi, referring to the words of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz regarding anti-Semitism in Poland, emphasised that for him “Katz’s statement is not a political problem, but first and foremost a question of truth,” adding that “as a spiritual man, it is my duty to speak out loud when something is not the truth. And it is not the truth, what Katz suggested in his statement − that all Poles are anti-Semites.”

In Rabbi Schudrich’s view “such a position on the matter is not only offensive and painful, but first of all, it is untrue.”

The top rabbi pointed out the fact that “Jews have been present in Poland for over a thousand years. While living together, Poles and Jews became very similar to each other.” He also noted that they “also share the same good and bad characteristics. These striking similarities sometimes make it very difficult to talk to each other.”

In his opinion, the “dramatic arguments which sometimes explode between us are not the result of us being so different, but because of us being so similar.” He went on to point out that “Poles and Jews are like cousins who are sometimes at odds. And we know that family arguments can be very intense. With a stranger you can just wave them off, but if a relative says something out of order, a big argument kicks off.”

Meanwhile, the Polish Council of Christians and Jews appealed for a responsible approach to the history of Polish-Jewish relations and a prudent shaping of the social and political frames in which these relations will continue to develop in the course of the next generations.

In a statement sent to Polish press agency, PAP, the Council said it “it is receiving with deep concern the new aggravation of rhetoric, as regards Polish-Jewish affairs.”

The Council called on the participants in the public debate, including politicians and journalists, both in Poland and Israel, “to speak about 20th century history with due diligence, restraint and respect for the memory of the deceased and murdered.”

On Sunday, Israel’s Foreign Minister Katz said “Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk,” quoting the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir.