Can one be a Jew and a Catholic at the same time? Are there extenuating historical circumstances that enter into this discussion? What happens when a man, who was given to a Catholic family as an infant by his Jewish parents and raised by them during and after the Holocaust, discovers his Jewishness at age 35 after he has been a Catholic Priest for many years, and only lately decides that he wants to come to live in Israel as a Jew and yet maintain his Catholic faith also?

All these questions and dilemmas are portrayed in a sensitive and empathetic way by Ronit Kertsner in a poignant documentary film entitled “Torn“, which I saw last week at the Cinematheque in Jerusalem, together with  a packed auditorium of sympathetic viewers, both Christian and Jewish.

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Not for the Dead: Bogdan Białek, Memory and Hope

by Rakheli Hever, ICCI’s Communications & Development Coordinator

In terms of Jewish-Polish relations, the Polish city of Kielce is arguably best known for a single, terrible event in its history: the Kielce Pogrom of July 1946, perpetrated by locals. Just prior to the Second World War, about a third of the city’s residents were Jewish (some 24,000 people). Of the 200 or so who survived the Nazis and returned to Kielce after the war, about 40 men, women and children were killed in the pogrom, and the rest subsequently left the city. Today, there is no Jewish community in Kielce, but the memory of its Jewish past is coming alive in recent years thanks to the work of devoted activists.

One of the leading figures in this process is Bogdan Białek, of Kielce, a publisher, organizer, and founder of the Jan Karski Society, an organization devoted to healing the wounds between Poles and Jews. I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Mr. Białek, who recently visited ICCI’s Educational Center to talk about his work in conserving the Jewish past of Kielce. The lecture was part of “Red-White / Blue-White: Religious, Historical and Social Aspects of Jewish-Polish Relations“, a special ICCI course in collaboration with the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv.

Mr. Białek introduced the story of the Kielce pogrom and the controversy surrounding it in Polish collective memory, using videoclips from “Not for the Dead“, a documentary film about the subject, in which he is featured as the main character.

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