Orthodox and Reform Jews Feud in Poland

Maneuvering To Represent Country's 6,000-Strong Community

getty images


Published November 26, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Beliak describes the union’s effort to strip Beit Polska of government recognition as proof that the union is opposed to Reform Judaism. The Union of Jewish Religious Communities is “attempting to maintain an absolute Orthodox monopoly” over Polish Jewish life, Beliak said.

This is hardly the only clash between Reform and Orthodox communities in Eastern Europe.

Until the fall of the Iron Curtain two decades ago, Jewish life was largely conducted underground in communist countries, and non-Orthodox communities were virtually nonexistent. Orthodox Jewish institutions took root quickly after the fall of communism, gaining government recognition and funding when it became available.

But non-Orthodox institutions are gaining strength across Europe, and in many countries the fight for government funding has put them on a collision course with the local Orthodox establishment.

In Hungary, which has some 100,000 Jews, taxpayers earmark a certain percentage of their taxes for donations to recognized religious communities. The Hungarian government had been funding a variety of Jewish communities, but in 2011 the government significantly reduced the number of religious communities it recognizes, omitting the Reform community.

Hungary’s two main Reform synagogues, Sim Shalom and Bet Orim, are appealing the decision at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as part of a suit by a host of Hungarian religious organizations.

In Austria, the Reform community is awaiting the implementation of a new system for distributing funds to religious communities and hopes to receive about $100,000 annually. Under the old system, Or Chadash, Vienna’s Reform community, was not represented on the Jewish community board, which essentially is Orthodox, according to Bergman.

Back in Poland, Rabbi Boaz Pash, the Orthodox rabbi of Krakow, says the inclusion of Ec Chaim under the umbrella of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities could be a model across Europe for Jewish religious streams operating under one administration but without interfering with one another’s religious practice.

“I think the arrangement reached in Warsaw is the way forward, not only in Poland but in other countries,” Pash said.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.