Monday, January 5, 2015

Expecting to Find Death in Poland, and Finding Life

Jewish American doctor Hugh Pollack expected to find death in Poland, and he did. But he also found life. 

"Death and Life in Poland Today by Dr. Hugh Pollack"

"There were so many preconceived notions and conventional wisdoms which I brought with me - that there was no Jewish life in Poland today, that the Poles were the worst of the anti-Semites.

But what I saw, what I heard, challenged many of those beliefs. Suddenly Poland and the Jewish issues involved were not as black and white as I had previously believed.


The history we learned challenged my understanding of Jewish Poland - how Jews for centuries from the Middle Ages until the 1800s were protected by the kings of Poland. They were actively welcomed and so Jewish life thrived, and grew. It was no coincidence that Poland for so long was THE center of world Jewry both in terms of the largest numbers, the high levels of Jewish literacy and knowledge and the intensity and vibrancy of Jewish life. Sounds a lot like American Jewry of the past 50 years."

Read the full article here

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful article!

    However, the truth, as is usually the case, is somewhere in the middle. The author should avoid romanticizing the past (and negative stereotyping is also a way of "bad" romanticizing) both in terms of how great it was for the Jews or how great it was for the Poles (the peasants). Moreover, in each of these cases it depends, as always, on the personal experience and individual circumstances. You cannot compare the experience of a Jewish banker to a Polish King with the experience of a Jewish farmer in Volhynia. Similarly, the experience of a Cossak might be very different than the experience of a Silesian peasant or one in Congress Poland.

    I also hope he takes the time to learn Polish culture (as in the non-Jewish part) and appreciate it too - see for example Anne Appelbaum's excellent cook book!

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