A group of 22 young Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots arrived in Israel Sunday, for a special three-week educational seminar organized by Shavei Israel. The participants, most of whom were raised Catholic and are now in their 20’s, came from an array of cities throughout Poland, primarily Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Tychy, Gdansk and Cieszyn. For some of the participants, this marks their first time visiting Israel.
The seminar will take place in Jerusalem and will be held entirely in Polish. As part of the program, the participants will travel throughout Israel, studying Hebrew and learning Jewish culture, religion and the history of the State of Israel. Shavei Israel has arranged for Polish-speaking Israeli educators to teach the young group and guide them on their visits to various parts of the country.
Today, there are approximately 4,000 Jews registered as living in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews in Poland who to this day are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of such people, known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland”, have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.
“Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, an increasing number of Polish youth have begun to rediscover their families’ Jewish heritage, which was often hidden out of fear of persecution by the Nazis and the Communists,” said Michael Freund, Founder and Chairman of the Shavei Israel organization. “Many are seeking to reconnect with their Jewish roots and with the State of Israel, so we organized this special seminar for them in order to facilitate this process. For us, this is an exciting and historical task.”