'Hidden Jews of Poland' learn about Judaism in Israel
U.S. non-profit organization Shavei Israel brings Poles with Jewish heritage who were raised as Catholics to Israel seminar aimed at strengthening ties.
A group of young Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots arrived this week in Israel to participate in an educational seminar aimed at strengthening their ties to the country.
In recent years, there has been a rise in the amount of Poles discovering their undisclosed Jewish roots, and they have become known as the "Hidden Jews of Poland", many of whom have begun to return to Judaism.
The special three-week educational seminar held entirely in Polish, was organized by non-profit organization Shavei Israel, founded in the U.S. by Michael Freund, a former American resident who now lives in Israel, with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.
The polish youth, most of who are now in their 20s, were raised as Catholics primarily in Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Tychy, Gdansk and Cieszyn.
For many of them, this is their first trip to Israel, and they will receive a thorough tour, starting ain Jerusalem, where the seminar is based, and heading to Lake Kinneret in the northern Galilee, and to the Negev in the south.
According to Shavei Israel, over 4,000 Jews living in Poland have registered with the organization, yet experts have estimated that there could be tens of thousands of Polish people living as Christians who either hide their Jewish identities, or are completely unaware of their Jewish heritage.
"Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, an increasing number of Polish youth have begun to rediscover their families' Jewish heritage, which was often hidden out of fear of persecution by the Nazis and the Communists,” Michael Freund, Founder and Chairman of the Shavei Israel said in a statement. “Many are seeking to reconnect with their Jewish roots and with the State of Israel, so we organized this special seminar for them in order to facilitate this process. For us, this is an exciting and historical task.”