Polish Toledo

This blog is associated with www.polishtoledo.com

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Check the circumcision

When someone sees a man wearing a beard and payots (those curly sideburns) they immediately assume him to be an Orthodox Jew. And, when he leads prayers in Hebrew, people assume he is a Rabbi.

Jacek Niszczota, Fake Rabbi

Jacek Niszczota who for years served as a community rabbi in the Polish town of Poznań was in fact a Polish Catholic and previously  a cook from Ciechanow, a town in north-central Poland.

The impostor presented himself to the community as Yaakav Ben Nistell from Haifa, Israel. His deceit was exposed recently when people in his hometown saw him on television taking part in ecumenical observances with Catholic and Muslim religious leaders. They then informed local journalists about the hoax. But, now he has disappeared into thin air.

The ‘rabbi’ had conducted Jewish related activities for youth in the local community for several years, and took part in ecumenical prayer services with Polish bishops. He also allegedly carried out interfaith meetings with priests and imams.

The Poznań community has posted a warning on its website saying Niszczota "deceived not only the community members but also other people with whom he co-operated on behalf of the Poznan Jewish Community."

As a volunteer, Niszczota who learned Hebrew and Jewish prayers by listening to Israeli radio, was not obliged to prove his identity, and his activities raised no suspicion.

He won the trust of the Jewish community with the good things he was doing: he baked challahs (bread) for Israel Independence Day ceremonies, he helped with maintenance of Jewish cemeteries and he had the right cultural knowledge. He also led prayers and gave lectures on Jewish tradition, that were all correct, and did not protest when people from outside the community occasionally addressed him "rabbi.

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said he met the man a few times and always found him to be "very sweet and smiley."

While it's not good that Niszczota misrepresented himself, the incident is indicative of a growing interest in Poland and in its once-large Jewish community, which was nearly destroyed by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust during WWII.

Who 30 years ago in Poland would have pretended to be a rabbi, to say nothing of 70 years ago?

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