See what you can read about in Chidusz 2/2023.
Cynthia Ozick, Rosa
The short story Rosa by Cynthia Ozick was first published in The New Yorker magazine in 1983. It was a continuation of The Shawl, a short story the magazine published three years prior and whose first Polish translation premiered in Chidusz 1/2023. The titular Rosa Lublin, ‘a madwoman and a scavenger,’ lives in Florida where, years after the war, she still struggles with the trauma of the Holocaust, and with the loss of her baby daughter and her homeland. Both stories, translated into Polish by Aga Zano, are considered to be among Ozick’s most important works and her most brilliant literary accomplishments. They are mandatory reading for all those learning about the Holocaust.
Tygodnik Powszechny counts how many Jews were killed by Poles
In Tygodnik Powszechny, Michał Okoński is counting how many Jewish victims were caused by Polish citizens during the war. It is not so obvious, however, whether we should be adding or subtracting numbers in this calculation.
Read an excerpt from Michał Bojanowski’s polemic:
The fundamental question that Okoński never asked is: Why did Szymon Datner assume that only 10% of Jews attempted to save themselves from death? Why those who avoided mass deportations to death camps wouldn’t want to save themselves? Why did the Jews go to the Hotel Polski? The answer is very simple: they never hoped to survive. They knew that on the so-called Aryan side, they would become prey immediately and that survival would take a lot of luck and money. They were well aware that one day’s rent for a Jew was higher than what a Pole would pay monthly, and that other blackmailers who didn’t just fleece their tenants (which they could very well do as for a Jew, homelessness meant certain death) were waiting just outside the ghetto gates or could knock on their hiding place at any moment with an offer no Jew was free to refuse. Jews knew that trying to ‘escape’ from the ghetto began only after they had left it. That would explain why only about 10% of all prisoners were brave enough to try. We could probably assume that, for the same reasons, some Jews would be forced to ‘give up’ hiding and ‘return’ to the ghetto. Because, apart from missing their loved ones, what other reason would there be to give up the dream od survival?
Yehoshua Ellis, The Cemetery Rabbi
Two travel bags, mainly with clothes, a prayer book, and a few of his favourite kippahs. That’s all he had with him when he came to Poland for the first time in 2003. The community, centred around the Nożyk Synagogue was not large, but as a beginning Jewish educator that he was back then, Rabbi Ellis felt that he found himself in a unique place. He was young, committed, and eager to work with people, but he didn’t have much of a plan for himself. After a year of volunteering, at the age of just under 26, he decided he would not go back home, to the United States. He realized there weren’t enough rabbis in Poland and so he made a decision: he would become one.
In July, twenty years after his first visit to Warsaw, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis is leaving Poland permanently to assume the position of a rabbi at the Shearith Israel Synagogue in Montreal. ‘I think my family needs a change, and I am ready for new challenges and a bit of normalcy,’ says Ellis to Paula Szewczyk in an interview about his reasons for leaving. ‘The war, followed by communist repressions, has caused so much harm in Poland that the Jewish life barely exists here. I work mainly with dead Jews. It has its perks: they never complain. However, I think it’s time for me to start working with the living.’
How Not to Eat the Wind?
Boris Cyrulnik, born in 1937, is the most famous French neuropsychiatrist. He knows almost nothing about his parents. The spectacular escape taking him from a train to the concentration camp in 1944 later inspired him to coin the theory of résilience (psychological resilience). Cyrulnik is the author of more than twenty bestselling books on psychology and psychiatry. In an interview with Anna Pamuła, he talks about his life and professional work.
Judith Plaskow, The Year of the Agunah
‘The existence of agunot is a crime against women, a disgrace to the Jewish community, and a violation of human rights that demands immediate remedy,’ Judith Plaskow wrote in her essay The Year of the Agunah. Plaskow, one of the most important contemporary Jewish thinkers, argues brilliantly why the existence of agunot is a problem for everyone, not just for those who live in Orthodox communities.
The Year of the Agunah is one of five essays by Judith Plaskow that we publish in this issue of Chidusz. In the remaining four texts, Plaskow deals with the role of men in shaping feminist Judaism, the problem of ignoring problematic passages of the Bible, the necessity for bringing secular and religious issues together, and the importance of maintaining spaces meant exclusively for women as places where they can continue to work for equality. All the essays were first published in Plaskow’s book The Coming of Lilith.
Operation Puszcza: Police Action in the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw
On the Rosh Hashanah on the 10th of September 1961, swastikas and graffitis that said Juden raus! were noticed in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw. Anonymous perpetrators defaced the tombstones of soldiers who died during the 1939 defense of the capital. Law enforcement treated the matter extremely seriously which resulted in Operation Puszcza, described in Chidusz by Krzysztof Bielawski.
It’s About the Pants and Tallitot
In a recently published book titled Spodnie i tałes [Pants and Tallitot], Konstanty Gebert juxtaposed and examined two disputes in a surprising way. The first is the debate of killers who argue about the pants of a Jew they murdered during the Holocaust and who should get to have them. The second, fifteen hundred years older, is a fragment of the Talmud where two Jews argue about who should keep the tallit they both found at the same. Gebert’s analyses will take us far from pants and tallitot, only to circle back to them with an understanding those subjects are fundamental. The author talks about his conclusion in an interview with Michał Bojanowski.
Nothing Is Impossible. David Rodin and the Tales of Braggarts
In Chidusz 2/2023, we publish the first Polish translation of stories from David Rodin’s book Di Dray Barimer [Three Braggarts], first published in New York in 1940. ‘Three Braggarts is a collection of short stories by three Jewish boys from New York to entertain one another: Hayim, Moshe, and Getzl’, explain the Polish translators, Professor Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska and Piotr Sewruk. The boys compete with each other constantly as each of them wants their story to surprise and impress the listeners the most.
The Jewish Cemetery in Jelenia Góra and the Tombstone Stories
Mathilde Buttermilch is another of the seven people whose tombstones were preserved in the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra. Marta Maćkowiak writes not only about her but also about the extraordinary fate of Mathilde’s grandson, Hans Keilson, a writer whose genius was revealed to the world only in the 21st century. And yet, the work of Mathilde Buttermilch’s descendant still hasn’t been translated into Polish.
What Is Allowed in the Cemetery?
An excerpt from the book Spodnie i tałes [Pants and Tallitot] (pub. Austeria, 2023) in which Konstanty Gebert explains the rules that must be followed at Jewish cemeteries.
Manure with Hitler
Michał Bojanowski argues that getting nettle burns is not the worst thing that can happen when pulling up weeds. A short story about Wrocław’s district Sępolno and one peculiar retired couple who longs for gas chambers.
The Valley of Peace
This time, Anna Knafo takes us to the Valley of Peace, an amazing place near Jokne’am in Israel. It is a beautiful place, a paradise for the eyes and soul, lush with diverse vegetation, flowers, and herbs during the Israeli spring and early summer (taking place at a different time than the calendar seasons).
It’s All Stuck in My Memory
On the 13th of November 2011, Krzysztof Bielawski interviewed Ryszard Bielawski who passed away in April of that year. Ryszard Bielawski was one of the oldest Polish YouTubers and the author of numerous videos popularizing Jewish monuments in Poland. During the war, Ryszard witnessed the annihilation of the Jewish community in Shchuchyn, Belarus.
Excerpt from the interview:
Krzysztof Bielawski: In May 1942, you witnessed the execution of the Jews of Shchuchyn. Can you describe those events to me?
Ryszard Bielawski: First, a car drove through and the Germans told people not to leave their homes. They started pushing the Jews out from the direction of the market square. They entered every building and pushed the Jews out onto the street, which led towards the village Rozhanka. They didn’t chase them away but left them on the streets and outside the houses. My neighbors stood at the end of the street. The Germans and soldiers, who were dressed in black, drove them out – I don’t know who they were, maybe some kind of police. They said the Germans told the Jews that they would go towards the train station, and that they would be taken away. When the whole column took off, we saw a car awaited them a 200-300 metres away. There, they were told to turn left, into a side street. We wondered what was happening because that wasn’t the way to the Rozhanka train station. We lived in a brick house, one and a half floors high, with a built-upon attic. A large window from the attic faced the direction in which the entire column was moving. After a while, we went up to the attic. In the distance, we saw not a column but a crowd, gathered near the forest. The crowd looked like a carpet of human bodies. They were kneeling or maybe sitting with their heads down. The soldiers dressed in black were running to and fro behind them. When a Jew raised their head, they were hit with a baton. Those kneeling could not see what was happening in front of them. Certain individuals were driven away from that group and shots could be heard.
Jews Are Like Everyone Else? How to Talk about the Holocaust?
‘There is no appropriate language for speaking about ninety-nine per cent of the victims of the Holocaust’, writes Professor Stanisław Krajewski in his column. ‘In essence, the military rhetoric is still considered a blueprint example to which other praiseworthy attitudes are considered garnish at best. Fortunately, more and more is being said about the quiet heroism, civil resistance, and the search for glimpses of normalcy in a world that got turned upside down.’ …
‘In the present-day Poland, the self-serving exploitation of the Holocaust is rampant. According to the government’s ‘historical policy,’ Poles did nothing but helped the oppressed Jews, and the insurgents were part of the Polish resistance movement. The same line of communication was used during the Communist era. Currently, the Prime Minister of Poland and the government are saying the same thing. And the majority of society seems to believe it. The truth is, however, that Poles generally were not helping the Jews, and the Jewish insurgents were not considered part of the Polish underground movement at the time. There were many exceptions, but they did not make for the rule. Barbara Engelking reminded us of this fact and was shamefully attacked for it.’
How I Fell in Love with Polish Historical Policy #2
Katarzyna Markusz, the editor of jewish.pl, writes about the intricacies of the Polish (right-wing) historical policy.
Chaim Grade, Di Agune
In the penultimate episode of the outstanding novel by Chaim Grade, we have been publishing the first Polish translation of Agunah since the 10/2021 issue of Chidusz magazine. The Yiddish community considered Grade, along with Bashevis Singer, to be the most serious candidate for the Nobel Prize in Jewish literature. In the penultimate episode of his novel, we get ready to leave the world of the old Jewish Vilnius where Hasidim are not welcome and rabbis command respect even among the former revolutionaries.
Anti-Semitism of the Brown Book
Anna Tatar from the Never Again Association writes about the new edition of the Brown Book that documents racist and xenophobic incidents in Poland that took place over the past three years. Nearly 270 anti-Semitic statements and events were recorded in that period.
Shorts: Brief Insights on Various Topics
In shorts, we write, among other things, about Austrian ideas for commemorating the Nazi past, the destruction of the Jewish cemetery in Zabrze, the controversies surrounding a plaque commemorating the bench ghetto at the University of Warsaw, the symbolic grave of the creators of the Ringelblum Archive, and about what Poles really think about Jews.
Click here to read about this issue in Polish.