Polish Chief Rabbi Protests After City Holds Children’s Bubble Party on Site of Former Jewish Cemetery

The Modzhitzer Rebbe, shlita, leads tefillos at the kever of Harav Yechezkel of Kuzmir, zy”a, in the cemetery-turned-schoolyard, in Kazimierz Dolny (Kuzmir), in Poland. (JDN)

The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, sent an angry letter to the mayor of Kazimierz Dolny – better known by its Jewish name, Kuzmir – condemning the eastern Polish town for throwing a children’s bubble party on the site of a former Jewish cemetery, where many kevarim still exist.

The Kazimierz Dolny authorities filled the former cemetery with bubbles for Children’s Day, a holiday celebrated on June 1 in many European countries.

In the letter sent to to Mayor Artur Pomianowski on Tuesday, Rabbi Schudrich wrote, “the party organized on the yard, which was after all fun on the graves, proves that for the municipal authorities, respect for human burial is not an important value.”

Rabbi Schudrich told the JTA that it was “outrageous” that Pomianowski posted a video of the bubble party on his mayoral social media page.

“Is this what we want to teach our children about how we treat the dead, our ancestors?” Schudrich said.

Pomianowski’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The former cemetery, now a children’s play area next to an elementary school, was demolished roughly 50 years ago, but the kevarim were not exhumed. Many matzeivos were used to pave roads and used as building materials throughout Eastern Europe during the Communist era.

Rabbi Schudrich said that for the past five years, representatives of Polish Jewry have been trying to work with several mayors of Kazimierz Dolny, including the current one, as well as the town council, to move the cemetery so that it would not function as a playground. He estimated that a few hundred Jews are buried at the site.

“We offered a really nice solution that would involve us helping to fund a new playground and moving the cemetery to an empty field nearby,” said Schudrich to the JTA. “But they keep stalling or canceling meetings and it seems like the town just doesn’t care.”

The Rebbe Harav Yechezkel of Kuzmir, zy”a, is buried in the former cemetery. Modzhitzer Chassidim flock to the cemetery-turned-playground to daven at his kever, but their demand to protect the site has not been met.

Jews have lived in Kazimierz Dolny since the 14th century. Before the Nazi invasion in World War II, there were 1,400 Jews in Kazimierz Dolny, roughly half of its population. Fewer than 20 of the town’s Jewish inhabitants are thought to have survived the Holocaust.

In his letter to the town’s mayor, Rabbi Schudrich wrote that the party “puts into question whether further talks about the site make sense, and casts doubt on whether, regardless of religion, both parties are guided by common values drawn from it.”

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!