Canadian community mourns death of Polish president

Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith Canada and the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada released statements over the weekend, among others, expressing their sympathy and mourning the deaths.

Peter Jassem, chair of the Toronto chapter of the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation, recalled Kaczynski’s devotion to repairing ties between Jews, Israel and Poland.

„He continued the political course that has now made Poland the closest ally of the Jewish state in Europe and its fervent supporter in the United Nations.  He was the first postwar head of Poland to celebrate the start of Chanukah in a Polish synagogue together with Warsaw’s Jewish community leaders and the first to light candles in the presidential palace on this important holiday that was once celebrated by one in every 10 Polish citizens,” Jassem said.

Bernie Farber, Congress’ CEO, remembered the president and first lady as „stalwarts in enhancing Polish-Jewish relations’ both in Poland and internationally. We grieve at this difficult time with [Polish ambassador to Canada Zenon] Kosiniak-Kamysz and the Polish-Canadian community. We will strive to honour the memory of Lech Kaczynski and Maria Kaczynska by working to bring our two communities even closer together,” he said.

Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, said there were no words to „express our deep sadness at Poland’s great loss,” adding that Kaczynski and Kaczynska were „wonderful people who worked tirelessly to promote Polish-Jewish relations and played a crucial role in healing some of the old wounds between our two communities.”

The Polish government declared this week one of national mourning. Memorial services were scheduled in synagogues in Warsaw and Krakow, and Jewish organizations and cultural centres cancelled their programs.

Kaczynski was a staunch friend of Israel and actively supported Jewish causes in Poland. When he was the mayor of Warsaw, he played a key role in the decision to found a Museum of the History of Polish Jewry, currently under construction on land donated by the city, and he was the honorary patron of the annual Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow.

On Monday, the annual Holocaust memorial at Auschwitz-Birkenau also honoured the late Polish president.

Organizers of the March of the Living „in which some 10,000 Jewish youths march more than a mile (1.6 kilometres) between the two parts of the former Nazi death camp” which took place on Yom Hashoah, used Monday’s Holocaust remembrance program at Auschwitz to issue a tribute to the fallen Polish president and remembered all those killed in Saturday’s crash.

„While our program will go on in deference to the memories of the six million killed in Europe during the Holocaust, we are deeply saddened by this terrible loss to the Polish government and people,” said Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of the organization.


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