Church in Poland celebrates the 26th Day of Judaism

A prayer meeting, a conference dedicated to Polish Jews, a lecture by a rabbi from Israel on the interpretation of the Old Testament, and a Catholic-Jewish celebration of the Word of God were the main highlights of the agenda of the nationwide 26th Day of Judaism, commemorated in Poland since 1998. This year, the main celebrations took place on January 17 in Siedlce. The celebrations are to strengthen relations between Catholics and Jews, to help reflect together on the Word of God and to deepen mutual understanding.

Praying together is the core of the commemorations of the Day of Judaism. This has been pointed out by Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, Chairman of the Committee of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for Dialogue with Judaism. During the evening prayer in Siedlce Cathedral, the archbishop observed: “We started our day with prayer and we end it with prayer. This is the framework of everything we have done today. We want to rediscover the meaning of all our reflection, in a living encounter with God and his word.”

The importance of good interpersonal relations was highlighted during the evening event by Rabbi Boaz Pash from Israel, who stressed: “Human relationships and life in mutual friendship and love are more important than great philosophies. When we live this way ourselves, we can expect the same from God.”

Addressing the conference participants gathered at the Siedlce Diocese Seminary, Israeli ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne observed: “Friendship and dialogue between religions, between Judaism and Catholicism, are very important; and I believe in it (…). This contact between Catholics and Jews is not only a cohabitation, but also a spiritual relationship. (…) It is important that we understand our past together and work together for our better future.”

“A conclusion from our shared history: we pray to the same God yet do not know one another,” said deputy Director of the Abraham J. Heschel Centre for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin, Fr. Dr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, one of the speakers of the conference. The lecturer indicated the need to raise awareness of the shared history of Poles and Jews and the need to build future together.

Participants in the 26th Day of Judaism commemorated the victims of the Holocaust. Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich stressed the importance of remembering the past in building Polish-Jewish relations. During a prayer of Jews and Catholics at the memorial to the 17,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Siedlce, Rabbi Schudrich said: “I cannot change the tragedy that has occurred, but I can remember, not only the tragedy, but also to learn how we created Siedlce together, lived here, in joyful and sad times. This is our common duty: to remember the Jews in Siedlce.”

The Day of Judaism has been commemorated in the Church in Poland since 1998. The aim of the celebrations is to strengthen relations between Catholics and Jews, to reflect together on the Word of God and to deepen mutual understanding. Each year the main events of the Day of Judaism are held in a different diocese.