(JTA) – In an unusually harsh condemnation, the European Jewish Congress (EJC) said the Polish government has a “staggering lack of concern” about anti-Semitism and a “transparent divide-and-rule tactic” vis-à-vis Jews.
The statement Thursday follows an open feud between leaders of Polish Jewry on whether Poland has seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents or sentiment since the rise to power of the nationalist Law and Justice Party in 2015.
The EJC statement offers support for the organization’s Poland affiliates, the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland and the Jewish Community of Warsaw, in their fight with other Jewish organizations in Poland.
The fight erupted earlier this month when leaders of the affiliated groups blamed the government for allowing if not encouraging an alleged increase in anti-Semitism. Other Jewish leaders disputed this claim, saying it constitutes a partisan tactic against the ruling party by the EJC affiliates.
“The EJC notes the staggering lack of concern from the government of Poland to the growth and normalization of anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric in the country in recent times,” the statement read. “The transparent divide-and-rule tactic of senior leaders of the Law and Justice Party in seeking to choose its selected Jewish interlocutors over the heads of official and representative community organizations in Poland leaves us staggered and reminds us of much darker times in Europe when governments chose their Jews.”
The statement referenced the hosting for a meeting earlier this month by a founder of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, of two Chabad rabbis and the Artur Hofman, president of the TSKZ cultural group, which is Poland’s largest Jewish organization in terms of membership and has offices in 15 cities. An activist for Holocaust commemoration in Poland also attended the meeting.
The meeting, which participants described as friendly and earnest, followed the publication of a critical letter that two leaders of the EJC-affiliated groups sent last month to Kaczynski. The authors asserted that an increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric has occurred and pleaded with the government to intervene to curb it. The leader of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, Anna Chipczynska, told JTA that Polish Jews have reached a “low point” in their feeling of safety under Law and Justice.
But these claims were part of a “political war” by some leaders of Polish Jewry on Law and Justice, according to Hofman, who was present during the meeting with Kaczynski. Hofman, who was elected to his position by a majority of the members of his group, said the EJC affiliates were exaggerating in their claims about anti-Semitism a problem that did not really exist.
On August 21, Sergiusz Kowalski, who had alerted the government about anti-Semitism as the president of the Polish branch of the B’nai B’rith Jewish group, said the men who met with Kaczynski were “court Jews.”