Jewish culture festivals, kosher restaurants, Klezmer bands and Jewish schools. This is Poland today - a country that had been crushed by Nazi Germany; its Jewish population almost entirely exterminated in Auschwitz-Birkenau and lesser-known German concentration camps. The revival of Jewish life here is little short of a miracle.
Michael Schudrich was born and raised in New York. His grandparents emigrated from Poland to the United States before World War II. As a young student in 1976, Schudrich visited Poland for the first time to rediscover his family roots. Poland was still under Communist rule in the seventies, and Schudrich found few signs of Jewish life there, apart from the TSKZ, a cultural society, secular in orientation and politically aligned with the Communist party, and a few people allied with the dissident worker’s organization, who founded the "Jewish Flying University." The latter believed even in those dark days that Jewish religious life could be revived in Poland, and their faith seems to have lit a spark in the young Schudrich. It was also an idea that inspired Ronald S. Lauder, an influential sponsor of Jewish projects worldwide and an active supporter of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum. Today Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress. Rabbi Schudrich’s work is nowadays mainly supported by the Taube Foundation of Californian Philanthropist Tad Taube as well as the Koret Foundation of San Francisco founded by Joseph Koret an emigree from Odessa, Ukraine. Not long after the Cold War ended thirty years ago, Michael Schudrich moved to Poland. This son of a Jewish rabbi serving a community in the Bronx became a rabbi himself - in Warsaw. He is now Chief Rabbi of Poland. In the nineties he organized seminars together with the Robert S. Lauder Foundation - several hundred Polish Jews were taught the tenets of their religious tradition in these seminars - and encouraged many other Poles to re-discover their Jewish roots. Today the Jewish community in Poland, concentrated in Warsaw, Cracow and Łódź, numbers several thousand members.