Yehoshua Ellis، the chief rabbi of Katowice، has been living in Poland since 2010 as an emissary of Shavei Israel. He moved to Warsaw three years ago، where he also serves as the head of the rabbinic mission for Jewish cemeteries in Poland and as rabbinical assistant to the Poland's chief rabbi، Michael Schudrich.
He said that since tensions began rising between Israel and Poland last Friday، the Polish-Jewish community has felt like grass being trampled. “There is a famous quote that when two elephants fight، the grass suffers،” Ellis told The Jerusalem Post. “The Jews of Poland are the grass in this fight.”
Ellis explained that many Poles blur the line between Israel and the Jews. “The line between Israelis and Jews is not that great، if it exists at all، and we are seeing more antisemitic statements since Friday، which could lead to actions.”
Last Friday، Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in Israeli media as saying “Poles co-operated with the Germans” during the Holocaust. Though he later issued a clarification that he was not referring to the Polish nation or all Polish people، Poland determined on Sunday that Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki would not attend this week’s Visegrad Group meeting of leaders from the Czech Republic، Hungary، Poland and Slovakia. The meeting is taking place in Israel.
On Monday، the Polish delegation pulled out entirely.
Ellis said while mainstream Polish media reported on the situation in what he considers a professional manner، the talkbacks and comments on the articles are strikingly “bombastic” and “extreme.”
“In general، anytime there is an article about anything Jewish، you get very nasty comments about Jews،” Ellis said. “But all the more so when you have an article about Israelis، Jewish Israelis، defaming Poland.”
The situation has further caused internal tension within the Polish Jewish community، because Polish Jews، he explained، “have multiple and competing identities.”
He told how one woman، who had recently reconnected to her Jewish past، contacted him Friday and asked، “What am I supposed to tell my children? Where do we fall on this line?”
“This may be a fight between Israel and Poland، but it is viewed as a fight between the Jewish world and the non-Jewish Polish world here – and this creates a cleavage with many people’s Jewish identities،” Ellis said، noting the situation is even more striking because Poland tends to have one of the lowest rates of antisemitic incidents.
“I cannot remember an act of antisemitic physical violence that has happened here in a long time،” Ellis said. “I really love Warsaw. It is a very special city. Though there are not really many Jews، it is a very Jewish city.”
No one really knows how many Jews live in Poland. Statistics vary between as few as 5،000 to as many as 50،000