Armed guards dressed in balaclavas descended on a Krakow synagogue on Monday morning, turfing worshippers out onto the street and chaining the entrance.
Jews were left to pray outside the Chabad-run Izaak Synagogue, one of seven in the Polish city owned by the Jewish Religious Community of Krakow (Gmina), which is run by members of the same family.
Worshippers said the synagogue’s rent had been hiked by 1,000 percent, and that the dispute was currently subject to legal proceedings.
One resident said: “The sight of armed and masked guards blocking the entrance to the shul was deeply upsetting… A 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, Dov Landau, was in tears. He said it reminded him of the horrors he experienced 80 years ago.”
The dispute recently led to water and electricity to the synagogue being turned off, prompting the shul’s Rabbi Eliezer Gurary to buy a generator.
In a message to Gmina president Tadeusz Jakubowicz, Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich chastised the family for using Jewish communal property “as private properties, only concerned with maximising profit”.
He said: “The Izaak Shul is fulfilling the responsibility of our Jewish community in Kraków. This should be supported and applauded. Instead, the electricity was cut off, then the water was cut off [then] masked guards were posted to prevent Jews from attending the morning minyan.
“No matter what the nature of the dispute is, I call upon the Gmina to fulfil the most elemental responsibility of every Jewish community: open the doors of the synagogue and allow Jews to pray to God.”
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis reacted to the row, saying: “The synagogue is the heartbeat of any Jewish community, for it to be used as weapon in an internal dispute, as it is in Krakow, is simply soul destroying.The images of masked guards standing outside a synagogue belong in a different era.”
We urge all parties to follow the call of Chief Rabbi Schudrich and fulfil the most basic responsibility of every Jewish community —open the doors of the synagogue and allow Jews to pray.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.