URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs: Statement on Polish Government’s Proposed Holocaust Law

Inside Leadership

URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs: Statement on Polish Government’s Proposed Holocaust Law

Press Release

Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154

New York, NY; January 30, 2018 - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the statement below in response to the Polish government's approval of a new law barring discussion of Polish responsibility during the Holocaust:

We were deeply disheartened by the Polish government’s approval of a new law that not only bars reference to “Polish death camps” but to discussion of the responsibility of Polish citizens during the Holocaust. Indeed, the death camps in Poland were established and managed by the German Nazis. And the world has recognized the thousands of Poles who acted bravely to protect Jews. More than 6,000 are affirmed as Righteous Among the Nations at Israel’s Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. But laws criminalizing speech by all – including historians, survivors, and the media – on the topic of Polish responsibility during the Holocaust, undermines core democratic concepts of free speech and attempts to rewrite history not through historical research or education but through repressive legislation. 

If passed, this legislation would suppress discussion of the role of those Poles who assisted in establishing and maintaining ghettoes, transporting Jews to the camps, supplying the camps, confiscating Jewish property, perpetrating killings of Jews (as in Jedwabne), thereby attempting not only to rewrite the World War II narrative regarding the facts of the Holocaust, but also quashing public rendering of personal remembrances of the involvement of Poles at a time when the victims of the Nazi concentration camps are quickly disappearing.

It is incumbent on nations, governments, and individuals to remember the responsibility of all those involved regarding the Holocaust, to relate the facts to the next generations, and to do everything within their powers to strengthen – not weaken – democracy. We are pleased that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has begun negotiations over this situation with the Polish government and we lend our support to his effort. It is so important that new generations of Poles, and people across the world, learn from history and draw the best and most truthful lessons to grow a more democratic and just world. Democracies are judged by how they acknowledge and deal with their history and their present.

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About the Union for Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.

Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.

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