Is Poland’s Jewish Revival an Expression of Philo-Semitism, or Something Else?

March 13 2020

Only about 10 percent of Poland’s roughly 3 million Jews survived World War II, and most of those who remained in the country were forced out in 1968. But the annual Krakow Jewish Culture Festival is the largest in Europe, bringing in some 30,000 attendants in the course of a week—most of whom are Gentiles. Sarah Glazer examines the strange nostalgia that drives this interest:

“It’s fashionable to have a Jewish friend—the way it’s fashionable to have a gay friend,” Genevieve Zubrzycki, a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan who is writing a book about the fashion for all things Jewish in Poland, was told by many non-Jewish Poles she interviewed. . . .“What they’re fighting for is a different kind of social order in Poland from one ruled by a right-wing party and the Catholic Church.”

But, more surprisingly, young non-Jewish Poles are becoming fascinated with Jewish culture at the same time that the country is experiencing an equally visible revival of open anti-Semitism. . . . The fact that the history of Jews in Poland was suppressed so long under Communism has also added to its mystique.

While the revival is accompanied by much philo-Semitic rhetoric, some Polish Jews themselves are skeptical:

“There are very few Jews left, so Poles took it on themselves to create this missing culture. They are just presenting [Jews] as folklore, as Fiddlers on the Roof,” said Anna Zielinska, . . . who advises an NGO that combats anti-Semitism. This “folk bubble,” she said, reinforces stereotypes. “That’s why [the festivals and so forth] don’t bear fruit in combating intolerance against Jews.”

Such festivals permit Poles to create a “self-serving and safe narrative about the Jewish past . . . and allow Poles to [portray] themselves as good people, loving Jews,” said Elzbieta Janicka, a literary historian at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. Her book Philo-Semitic Violence? argues that this falsely harmonious version of history is a way for Poles to avoid responsibility for anti-Semitism and their role in the pogroms before, during, and after the Holocaust.

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Read more at Airmail

More about: Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, Poland, Polish Jewry

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism