I am immensely proud of the staying power of our Polish communities. As I look back at the passing of my first year as the chairman of the board of Beit Polska (the national body) and Beit Warszawa (a local community in the country’s capital), I am satisfied I did not spoil much; some serious stewardship and a bit of guidance on top of the day-to-day administration allowed our self-starter communities to thrive: meet the needs of their members and attract new ones, which we describe further.
By way of introduction, I will first say that I turned 60 this year. I combine my functions in the Polish Progressive Movement with a full-time career of a Polish-English conference interpreter and a financial sector copywriter and translator (now spanning over 30 years). Over the past year, I have read for my doctoral degree in Cultural and Media Studies. I also continue to maintain a watchful eye over the life of Bronia Beila Jeżowska, nee Mosbauer, a fiercely independent 93 year-old Holocaust survivor, my Mame. I enjoy an occasional opportunity of playing a violin sonata or a jazz classic with my ‘pianist in residence,’ my accomplished piano teacher and instrumentalist wife Ludmiła. I am also deeply satisfied with the now independent lives of our six progeny, three of them engaged professionally in shaping Polish-Jewish and Israeli-Polish relations: son Emil Jeżowski, a career diplomat at the Embassy of Israel in Poland; daughter Ela Jeżowska, a staff member of the Rabbinical Commission for Cemeteries at the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland (preservation of Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust mass graves); and daughter Jozefina Wardenga, the administrator and coordinator of Warsaw’s Ec Chaim synagogue.
My family left Poland for the friendlier shores of United States as late as in 1970, in the aftermath of this country’s infamous communist-era wave of anti-Semitism. I was 13 then and adapted well to my new home in Queens, New York, my days of the following six years filled with violin practice, voracious book reading and long (and often eventful) subway rides to and from my schools: The Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and subsequently The Manhattan School of Music. Believe it or not, in late 1976 I transferred to The Warsaw Academy of Music (with a bit of a nudge from my parents), which I graduated in 1981, with an MA in Performing Arts, Violin. The two momentous moments of that same year included my marriage and my decision to make Poland my permanent home once again. Much good has happened since and I enjoy my professional and my family life, by now a grandfather of seven. What I am also deeply touched by are the two decades over which the Progressive Movement communities reconstituted themselves, in response to real demand of the remnant Polish Jews and in and of themselves, and that I have had my small part in that process.
As you consider the logic of supporting Jewish communal life in Poland, consider the fact that we are here, resolutely overcoming our constraints and traumas, and taking on new challenges our organic growth requires us to take. The key challenges we will be tackling in the present one-year horizon include: (i) managing relocation of the Warsaw community (and the national organization’s basic office infrastructure) to a suitable facility in downtown Warsaw; (ii) securing a dedicated burial ground; (iii) funding of rabbinical support for the communities; and (iv) publication of at least two key Jewish educational book titles.
Stay strong as we seek to stay strong. With warm Hanukkah greeting,
Marek S. Jeżowski
Chairman Beit Polska and Beit Warszawa