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Chief Polish rabbi climbs fence of barricaded Krakow synagogue

Synagogue in Krakow

Rabbi Michael Schudrich and Jonathan Ornstein climbing the fence of the barricaded Izaak Synagogue in Krakow, Poland on July 4, 2019. (Shimon Briman)

 

(JTA) — Police in Krakow briefly detained the chief rabbi of Poland after he tried to climb the fence of a synagogue whose congregation has been evicted by leaders of that city’s Jewish community.

In the unusual incident Thursday at Krakow’s Izaak Synagogue, Rabbi Michael Schudrich was asked to explain his actions and present his identity card to police officers monitoring a protest rally outside the synagogue, which Schudrich attended.

The protest by several dozen people was over the eviction of a congregation led by Chabad rabbi from the synagogue by the Jewish Community of Krakow, which owns it. The Chabad rabbi, Eliezer Gurary, had worked there for years with the consent of the Jewish Community of Krakow, the official representative of the city’s Jewish community and a non-profit which is a member of Schudrich’s Union of Jewish Communities of Poland.

The Jewish Community of Krakow, which hired security guards to prevent Gurary’s congregation from entering the building, said in a statement that Gurary’s congregants had damaged the synagogue, though Gurary has denied this. Schudrich in a statement Tuesday condemned the eviction.

A standoff situation evolved, in which dozens of Jewish protesters, many from Gurary’s congregation, came Wednesday and Thursday to protest the synagogue’s closure. Schudrich on Thursday joined the protest and climbed the fence as media filmed the incident.

The Jewish Community of Krakow has a few dozen official members and is run by Tadeusz Jakubowicz and his daughter, Helena. It owns property worth millions of dollars.