Feiler Faster

I’m catching up on some old stories that caught my eye in recent weeks. For anyone who’s spent a minute contemplating the Holocaust, this one sends shivers down the Central Nervous System. It seems being Jewish has become chic in Poland, but with all the Jews wiped out, it’s non-Jews who are doing the davening.

A curious thing is happening in this old country scarred by Nazi death camps, raked by pogroms and blanketed by numbing Soviet sterility: Jewish culture is beginning to flourish again.
“Jewish-style” restaurants are serving up platters of pirogies, klezmer bands are playing plaintive oriental melodies, derelict synagogues are gradually being restored. Every June, a festival of Jewish culture here draws thousands of people to sing Jewish songs and dance Jewish dances. The only thing missing, really, is Jews.
“It’s a way to pay homage to the people who lived here, who contributed so much to Polish culture,” said Janusz Makuch, founder and director of the annual festival and himself the son of a Roman Catholic family.
Jewish communities are gradually reawakening all across Eastern Europe as Jewish schools introduce a new generation to rituals and beliefs suppressed by the Nazis and then by communism. At summer camps, thousands of Jewish teenagers from across the former Soviet bloc gather for crash courses in Jewish culture, celebrating Passover, Hanukkah and Purim all in July.
Even in Poland, there are now two Jewish schools, synagogues function in several major cities, and there are at least four rabbis.
But with relatively few Jews, Jewish culture in Poland is being embraced and promoted by the young and the fashionable.

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