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Jewish group slams revival of anti-Semitic tradition

April 22, 2019

The World Jewish Congress has slammed a Polish town's beating and burning of an effigy of Judas as promoting anti-Semitism. The Catholic Church has banned the pre-Easter practice and says it glorifies violence.

Image: picture-alliance/DUMONT Bildarchiv/M. Marczok

The World Jewish Congress has condemned a tradition in the small Polish town of Pruchnik in which villagers beat and burn an effigy of Judas on Good Friday. In the ritual, the figure of Judas is given features that match anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The news was first reported by Israel's Kan News, which in a tweet pointed out the words "traitor" and "Judas" were painted on the effigy. 

"Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering," World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer said in a statement posted on the organization's website.

"We can only hope that the Church and other institutions will do their best to overcome these frightful prejudices which are a blot on Poland's good name," he added.

The tradition, which originates in the 18th century according to local media, was revived by Pruchnik this year after a long pause. The Catholic Church in Poland has long banned the practice, saying it promotes hatred and violence. Christians believe Judas betrayed Jesus in exchange for a payment of 30 pieces of silver and that Jesus was later crucified and then resurrected, which represents the salvation of humanity.

Polish nationalism

Rising nationalism in Poland since the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015 has led to shifts in how the country is handling anti-Semitism.

Over 3 million Polish Jews perished in the Holocaust, and it remains controversial to talk about the thousands of Poles who turned on their Jewish neighbors instead of focusing on those who helped the Jewish community.

Last year, parliament introduced legislation intended to curb the use of the phrase "Polish death camp" when referring to the Nazi German camps built and run in occupied Poland. The bill had originally called for lengthy prison sentences to the convicted, Warsaw, however, nixed the jail terms after an outcry from the US and Israel.

On Friday, PiS lawmaker  Krystyna Pawlowicz accused US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher of offending Poland by extending Passover greetings to the country's small Jewish community. On Sunday, he also wished the country's Christians a happy Easter.

es/sms (AP, Reuters)

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