Last month, on Yom HaShoah, Rambam Mesivta held a rally outside the Polish consulate in Manhattan expressing support for Professor Jan T. Gross and speaking out against Polish anti-Semitism.
Polish consul-general Urszula Gacek took exception to the demonstration and wrote a letter to Rambam expressing her disappointment and recognizing the fact that more needs to be done to bring about reconciliation between the Jewish community and the Polish government in order to teach young people from both communities to “challenge prejudices and build friendships.”
Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Rambam’s rosh mesivta, responded to the consul general by suggesting a meeting.
Ms. Gacek extended an invitation, and Rabbi Friedman and Mr. Hillel Goldman, Rambam’s assistant principal, met Ms. Gacek at the Polish consulate immediately after the conclusion of a moving presentation commemorating the life and history of Renia Spiegel, a teenage girl who perished in the Holocaust.
The meeting focused on the recent rally, its implications, and prospects for moving forward in a positive manner of building bridges. While each side clearly had a different perspective in terms of how the Jan T. Gross controversy should be handled, the consul general agreed with Rambam’s request to consult with the Polish government, advise them of the deep concern that Jewish groups have, and hopefully elicit a statement from the government which would address the concerns raised during the rally.
While Ms. Gacek focused on the positive direction Polish society has taken over the last few decades, Rabbi Friedman gave no ground on the rally’s purpose: to protest the Polish government’s tacit whitewashing of its role in the Holocaust via the Jan T. Gross controversy. From raising voices outside the consulate at the rally just a month earlier, to a private talk inside the consulate with the powers that be, Rambam Mesivta made sure that the truth of Poland’s role during the Holocaust would not be forgotten.