Eastern European Jews Reclaim Their Heritage: Long-Suppressed Customs, Rituals Are Embraced

By Gruber, Ruth Ellen | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Eastern European Jews Reclaim Their Heritage: Long-Suppressed Customs, Rituals Are Embraced


Gruber, Ruth Ellen, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


WARSAW - In a cavernous dining hall at a summer camp near the town of Szarvas in southern Hungary, 450 Jewish children from nearly half a dozen formerly communist states crowd long tables covered with red-and-white check oilcloth.

The meal they are eating is kosher, and even before it is over, they jump up on their chairs and throw their arms around each others' shoulders. To the strains of an accordion, they sway back and forth, singing Hebrew songs at the tops of their lungs.

In Belgrade's only synagogue, a young bride and groom exchanged vows the previous summer under the traditional Jewish wedding canopy. It was the first traditional, full-scale Jewish wedding in Belgrade for decades, and guests celebrated later with a case of kosher wine brought in from Hungary.

"You start a new life when you get married," Dejan Petrovic, 29, who works as the activities organizer for the 2,000-member Belgrade Jewish Community, said six months later. "My wife and I decided to start to keep kosher, to keep Shabbat. We can't do everything, but we try."

JEWISH REBIRTH

On a cold Sunday this past January, more than 150 Jews crowded into a downtown Warsaw lecture hall for a landmark conference on the future of Polish Jewry. There were elderly people in attendance, but most were from younger generations, born after World War II.

Some traveled hundreds of miles from cities such as Krakow, Szczeczin and Wroclaw to take part in a meeting that a decade ago few would have thought possible in this country where the Holocaust claimed 3 million Jewish lives.

"Ten years ago, the common question was, when will the last Jew in Poland be buried?" Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Polish director of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, a U.S. organization that sponsors Jewish education programs in several countries, told the meeting.

The meeting was sponsored by another American Jewish aid organization, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). "Five years ago, the common question was, are there any young Jews in Poland? Today, we don't have this type of question."

Less than a decade ago, the Jewish communities in Poland and most other countries in Communist-dominated East-Central Europe were generally written off as dying remnants of the pre-Holocaust past.

Forty years of Communist restrictions had compounded the devastation of the Holocaust. Most of those openly identifying themselves as Jews were elderly. Many, if not most, other Jews chose to conceal or deny their Jewish identity. To many observers, the Jewish chapter in this part of Europe was virtually closed.

THE NEW JEWS

The collapse of Communist rule seven years ago changed everything. The institution of religious freedom and the disintegration of communist-era taboos triggered social, cultural and religious Jewish revival.

"Jewish communities are throwing off the mantle of `remnant' like a garment that no longer fits," said Edward Serotta, an American photographer and writer who has documented Jewish communities in Central Europe since the mid-1980s.

"We've been calling them last Jews, but they're not acting like last Jews - with kindergartens, summer camps, schools, youth programs and even Web sites on the Internet," he said.

Precise figures don't exist, but throughout the region thousands of Jews, particularly younger people, have discovered, recovered or reclaimed often long-buried Jewish roots and openly declared a Jewish identity.

"I found out six years ago from my mother that I am Jewish," Uri Filipowicz, a leader of the newly formed Union of Polish Jewish Students said last summer. "Before that, I hadn't known what it meant to be a Jew. In my family, the fact that my mother was Jewish was canceled out. . . . I don't want the fact that I'm Jewish to be just another empty word, so I decided to learn as much as I could and make this my road. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Eastern European Jews Reclaim Their Heritage: Long-Suppressed Customs, Rituals Are Embraced
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.