Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, spoke with Arutz Sheva about the recent antisemitic incident in the city of Kalisz on Poland's national Independence Day.
"This holiday attracts all kinds of marches," Rabbi Schudrich explains. "This includes, sometimes, far-right marches, even to the point of antisemitic marches." Rabbi Schudrich adds that this has been one of the worst antisemitic incidents he has ever seen in his thirty-plus-year tenure, including people chanting "Death to Jews".
"There was a statue, called the Kalisz Statue, with which the King of Poland gave the Jews rights to live in Poland. They burned this statue, saying that it was anti-Polish," Rabbi Schudrich continues.
Rabbi Schudrich says that this is both unusual and not. "Up until this incident, the government has been quiet about anti-Semitism, and pushed away responsibility or reaction. This time it was different," says Rabbi Schudrich, before listing numerous Polish governmental figures who condemned the act. "It is also very important that the Catholic church - over 90% of the population is Catholic - came out with a very strong statement saying that what happened is not Catholic. The media came out against it as well. There is actually a countermarch right now in Kalisz to show that what happened is not what Kalisz is about."
"There will always be extreme anti-Semites in the Diaspora," Rabbi Schudrich says. "The real question is how the government will react. I don't know what effect condemnation will have. I'm not happy, but I'm hopeful."
"The Jewish community of Poland has reacted very strongly as well," he notes. "We are sending in our request that the mayor and state prosecutor pursue this case tomorrow."
Israel, Rabbi Schudrich claims, has a dual obligation. "Israel needs to condemn the act, and at the same time thank the Polish government for the steps it has taken.
"The big question now is what the prosecutor will do. It is absolutely a crime to yell 'Death to Jews', as it would be in any country," Rabbi Schudrich declares. "It is hate speech and incitement to riot. Up until now, the prosecutors have been reluctant to do anything. This will be a big test case for them."