A SAUDI CALL FOR DIALOGUE
Some good news from Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah wants to invite representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths to a conference to talk about common ground and "ways to defend humanity." And the call has been picked up by the Saudi foreign minister. It may be hard to believe, but Abdullah, whom I met in 2002 when I was with a group of journalists who traveled to the Saudi kingdom, is in some ways a reformer. Yes, his House of Saud has run an oppressive regime since his father became the country's first king in the 1930s. But Abdullah, unlike some others in his large, rich family, seems to sense the need for some political, economic and maybe even religious reform. Whether this small interfaith dialogue gesture will turn into anything useful is uncertain, but it's clearly a slap in the face to radical Muslims (remember than 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis) who view Christians and Jews as evil infidels. But if it turns into Wahhabi leaders lecturing Christians and Jews, it will fail.
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JEWISH LIFE RETURNING TO POLAND
Many regular readers of this blog know I've been working with a local rabbi on a book about Jews in Poland who survived the Holocaust, or Shoah, with non-Jewish help. For more information about that project, click on the "Holocaust book project" link under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.
The work took me and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn to Poland last August to do a series of interviews, mostly with members of families who helped to save Jews. There weren't many Polish non-Jews who did this. In fact, more than 90 percent of Poland's nearly 3.5 million Jews perished in the Holocaust.
But while we were there we got at least some sense of the reality that a Jewish presence is returning to Poland today. The estimates for the size of the Jewish community there vary, but most guesses put the number of people who would identify themselves today as Jews in Poland at a few thousand -- between 5,000 and 30,000, say.
There is evidence of interest in Jewish life, for sure. There are Jewish restaurants and Jewish festivals, but most of this is created by non-Jews for non-Jews.
But Hadassah Magazine has done a good update on how the re-emergence of Jewish life in Poland is going this days. And it's worth a read, even if you have little interest in Poland or Judaism because it offers a sense of how new life is possible even in the aftermath of the most horrific history imaginable.
One of the leaders of the Reform community in Poland told us that he really needs at least half a dozen more rabbis to locate in Polish urban centers so that everyone with an interest in Judaism can have the chance to explore what that life might mean. But so far it's difficult to get such people to come to Poland and there's not much of an educational system yet designed to produce rabbis.
By the way, one of the people mentioned in the Hadassah piece will be featured in our book, the Rev. Romuald Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel, born a Jew, but reared by a Catholic family and now a Catholic priest and teacher. We interviewed him in Lublin.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
Today's religious holiday: Khordad Sal (Birth of Prophet Zaranhushtra; Zoroastrianism)