Cemetery Flea Market? No Respect for the Dead

March 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment

woj_maz_mapaMichael Schudrich, an American, has served as the Chief Rabbi of Poland since 2004 and the official rabbi of the cities of Warsaw and Lodz since 2000. In an Institute for Global Jewish Affairs bulletin, he says: “When I came to Poland for the first time in an official capacity eighteen years ago, the question was ‘Why are you going there? There are no Jews.'” Actually, there are: “As a Jewish historian I think that rationally the Jewish people should have disappeared in 586 BCE or certainly later. There is nothing logical about how Jewish communities function and survive. As long as there is a community, I feel, being a rabbi, an obligation and honor to be there to help people connect to their Jewish identity.” 

Part of that job means maintaining respect for the dead. So when Schudrich found that a weekly flea market was being held atop Jewish graves, he had to raise serious questions.

Poland is home to 1,300 unattended Jewish cemeteries, Schudrich points out. “We cannot save all of them. My first priority is that we will not permit their further desecration. If there are neglected, forsaken, and overgrown cemeteries, this is painful. Yet taking care of them cannot be a priority in our present situation…. At the end of last year I went to Ostrów Mazowiecki, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Warsaw. They have a flea market every Monday morning in a location of which one-third is on the old Jewish cemetery. The mayor told me that if I said this was wrong according to Jewish laws, he would move the market.”

Good — the market gets out of the graveyard, the mayor learns a lesson about not desecrating graves. AND now we know that if we’re ever in Ostrów Mazowiecki, we can go to a flea market!

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