Catholics and Jews in Poland observed the annual Day of Judaism with psalms, music, and silent prayer on Sunday.
The main commemorative event took place on Jan. 17 at the Bródno Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world, where around 320,000 people are buried.
Polish Catholics have observed the Day of Judaism since 1998. This year, the day was marked with a common Liturgy of the Word followed by remarks from Catholic and Jewish leaders.
The reading was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, on which the motto of this year’s commemoration was based: “Life and death. ‘Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.’” The quotation is from Deuteronomy 30:15.
Psalm 130, one of the penitential psalms, was also heard at the service. It was first read in Polish and then sung in Hebrew. There was also time for silent prayer.
The prayer concluded with a concert. Music by Symcha Keller’s band was interwoven with stories about members of the historic and present-day Polish Jewish communities.
Bishop Romauld Kamiński of Warszawa-Praga was present, as well as Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, who said last week: “The Day of Judaism in the Church for me, a Rabbi, is a holy day.”
According to a press release from the Polish bishops’ conference, Rabbi Stas Wojciechowski noted in his reflection that the passage from Deuteronomy is usually read at the Jewish New Year, “a time to summarize how we used our freedom, whether we chose life or death.”
“The rabbi emphasized that in the synagogue liturgy these words should be interpreted in the context of conversion, i.e. as long as a person is alive, he can convert,” the statement said.
Bishop Kamiński tied the reading to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and thoughts about life and death, the bishops’ release said. “He stressed that listening to God’s Word is a privilege, but the question arises: am I listening to God speaking to me? Does he have a chance to reach me today with his word?”
The Day of Judaism takes place at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held annually from Jan. 18-25. In Poland, the Catholic Church also observes a Day of Islam at the end of the ecumenical week.
Organized by the bishops’ conference, the Day of Judaism is “aimed at interreligious dialogue and helping to discover the roots of Christianity,” the bishops’ statement said.
By Hannah Brockhaus
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