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Polish Jews Win Medals of Honor

Three Jewish leaders were awarded Bene Merito medals in recognition of their actions in promoting Poland abroad.

The medals were conferred upon Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich; Helise Lieberman, director of the Taube Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland; and Jonathan Ornstein; director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow,

The national medals of honor were awarded on Tuesday in Warsaw by Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna. During the ceremony, he thanked the awardees for their “contribution to Polish-Jewish relations, writing a common history in the new conditions.”

Michael Schudrich in 2000 was named chief rabbi of Warsaw and Lodz. On Dec. 8, 2004 he was elected chief rabbi of Poland. He received Polish citizenship the following year.

Lieberman, born in the U.S., has lived in Warsaw since 1994 with her husband and daughter. She is a former Hillel director and currently serves as a member of the International Task Force on Jewish Peoplehood Education.

Jonathan Ornstein has served as the director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow since it was opened in 2008 by Prince Charles. A native of New York, he lived in Israel for several years and then worked as a lecturer in Modern Hebrew at the Jagiellonian University before joining the Krakow JCC.

“This award clearly once again shows the importance and centrality for the Polish government for the growing and deepening relations with the local Jewish community as well as the world Jewish community,” Schudrich told JTA.

“Being awarded the Bene Merito medal for service to Poland is a great honor, and it is especially meaningful to me to have received it with my close friends Helise Lieberman and Rabbi Michael Schudrich,” Ornstein told JTA.

“A strong partnership with the Polish government is essential to our work rebuilding Jewish life in Poland and this medal is a symbol of the warm, nurturing environment Jews have today in Poland,” he said.

At the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow, where I work, we have an amazing team of professional and volunteers, Jewish and non-Jewish working tirelessly to build a Jewish future in our city and although I received this medal, it really belongs to them,” he added.

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