29 June 2009

Poland: Przemysl synagogue plaque unveiled

A memorial plaque was unveiled June 23, at a former synagogue building in Przemysl, Poland for the first time since the Holocaust.

The ceremony took place at the initiative of Shavei Israel chair Michael Freund, who challenged the city's deputy mayor to return the Old Jewish cemetery and another synagogue to the Jewish people.

The memorial plaque is in Polish, Hebrew and English. Attendees included Israel's Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner; Shavei Israel chair Michael Freund; Monika Krawczyk, CEO, Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland; a representative of the US Consulate General in Krakow; and members of the local city council and other official organizations in Poland.

The building was the Przemysl New Synagogue, dedicated in 1910, also known as the Scheinbach synagogue. After the war, the Polish government confiscated it and the building became a library.

Said Freund:
“I am deeply moved that after so many decades, a sign has finally been posted here on the front of this Synagogue to remind everyone that Jews once prayed here, including my relatives. This is an important step towards ensuring that what happened to the Jews of Przemysl during the Holocaust will not be forgotten. I urge other Jews and Israelis whose families came from towns in Eastern Europe to become more involved in preserving what remains of the priceless Jewish heritage that once flourished there.”
He addressed Przemsyl Deputy-Mayor Wieslaw Jurkiewicz and urged him to return other city Jewish sites, including the Old Jewish cemetery and the grounds of the Old Synagogue, to the Jewish community.

"Mr. Jurkiewicz, I appeal to you in the name of the Jews who once lived here and played such a central role in the development of Przemysl: restore these holy places to their rightful owners. We can not change the past, but we can –and must – do it justice. The time has come for the city of Przemysl to return the Jewish communal property in its hands to the Jewish people."

Jewish history in the town dates to the 14th century, and Jews played a significant role in its economic and cultural development of the town. In 1939, the 20,000-strong Jewish community was about 30% of the population. Most of Przemysl's Jews were murdered during the Holocaust by the Germans and collaborators. A handful of Jews live today in Przemysl. There are few signs if its historical Jewish life except for the overgrown Jewish cemetery.

For more information, see these resources:

New Przemysl Synagogue
Przemysl Jewsh History
Przemysl Blog
Scheinbach Synagogue - Update

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