To fellow members of the Community , concerned friends and other interested parties,
I must admit that it took me some time to consider how to respond to the article “Kaddish for a Million Bucks.” Nevertheless, the scale and weight of the allegations compel me to take a position in the matter and leave me in a situation where whatever I might say would take on a personal character and make it difficult to stick to the straight facts. That is why I have chosen to respond to the allegations in the article in the order they appeared. Putting them in list form makes them easier to read and reduces their personal nature. I should add that my responses generally address matters concerning the Jewish Community of Warsaw and the Foundation. It should be understood that this doesn’t mean that the other facts in the article conform to the truth. Together with our legal counsel we are trying to work out with Forbes an explanation of the matter.
- The sale of plots of land from the Jewish cemetery in Torun as well as their development for housing took place without any sort of approval of the authorities of the Jewish community. This took place in 1993 when the owner and sole administrator of the property was the City of Torun. The cemeteries in Gliwice and Lublin were not sold – neither in part nor in their entirety – as the author of the article fraudulently suggests.
- According to community leadership, the synagogue in Działoszyce is not nor ever has been the property of the Jewish Community of Katowice. It currently belongs to the State Treasury and any proceedings with regards to it are being conducted before the Regulatory Commission (Ministry of the Administration). It is therefore untrue that the board of the community could have offered anyone the property since they are not its owner.
- The building of the former hospital in Siedlce that was sold by the Community after its restitution had stood vacant for several years and was in a state of ruin. The building was not listed as a landmark on the national heritage registry. The Community took possession of the building on November 8, 1999 and sold it on February 2, 2001. It had been vacated before its restitution. The object had not undergone general renovations since the end of the Second World War and was in a state of technical ruin. After taking possession of the real estate the Community tried to lease the property or find an investor for it but was unsuccessful.
- The Jewish Community of Warsaw donated 450,000 PLN to the Save the Jewish Cemeteries of Lublin Foundation. The Foundation’s disposal of its funds is governed by statute (i.e., the Foundation’s mission is, among others, to preserve the graves, matzevot (tombstones) and monuments giving testimony of Jewish culture in the Jewish cemeteries of Lublin…) and can be confirmed in its financial statements and reports filed with the Ministry of the Interior. The donated funds have been allocated for activities such as restoration of the cemetery wall along Kalinowszczna Street, now in its second year. The total cost of the project, conducted under the supervision of specialists in restoration and archeology, has been estimated to be 7,000,000 PLN. I never have been nor am I now the president or any other member of the governance of the Foundation, a fact which can be easily verified with an online search of the National Court Register (KRS). Typical to form, Forbes simply deleted the bogus content from its internet edition after the Association’s request for an official correction though it can be found in the paper edition of the magazine and in internet reprints from before the deletion. The Foundation has posted pictures of the progress being made on the renovations of the Lublin cemetery walls on its website. (Copy)
- The locale in which my son, Rafał Kadlčik, opened the “Bar Mykwa” café is not a registered national or cultural heritage site although it is located within a zone under conservatory protection in the center of Piaseczno. The board of the Jewish Community of Warsaw undertook the decision to rent the locale – an act in which I took no part, due to the obvious conflict of interest. Under the terms of the lease agreement, the tenant is obliged to pay rent, cover media and other expenses. Moreover, it should be noted that the tenant was obliged to renovate the building. A commemorative plaque has been placed in the locale with a description of the history of the Piaseczno Mikveh (ritual bath).
- The allegation that the renovations of heating installations in my home were paid for with Community funds has been proven false in a court of law. The principles of journalistic decency dictate extreme caution when reporting charges based on the declarations of “former employees” whose relations with their “former employers” were ambiguous at best.
- In the 1950s the former Otwock synagogue was converted to a municipal bath, at which time all signs of the former synagogue were removed. A dozen or so years ago it was abandoned and left in a state of disrepair. On the day of its restitution, all that remained were its walls and a caved in roof. It is not true that the Community ‘sold a synagogue,’ since at that point there had not been a synagogue on the site already for years. A professional real estate agency in Otwock (FAST Nieruchomości) was hired for the transaction which required a commemorative plaque to be placed on the site (which occurred in 2009).
- The building of the former Beit Midrasz in Sokołów Podlaski was recovered on December 20, 1999, and sold on November 20, 2000. At the time of its restitution it was in very poor technical condition. It had been totally rebuilt – with the upper floor adapted for apartment space and the ground floor partially for services (shops). Thus it was stripped of all signs that it had once been a place of prayer. Among the main reasons for the building’s sale were its technical state, its distance from the headquarters of the Community (making it impossible to manage the property effectively) and the two families living on the site who were causing problems and not paying their rent. The renovation the Community carried out, which was in the nature of an emergency repair, and consisted of removing plaster and installing staples connecting two walls. The joint cost of these repairs was 7,000 PLN and not, as stated in the article, 100,000 PLN.
- Contrary to Wojciech Surmacz’s assertions in the Forbes article, the Moses Schorr Foundation never published a study according to which there are one hundred thousand Jews residing in Poland.
- The Jewish Community of Warsaw’s membership requirements and procedures are publicly available on its website. Part of the procedure requires an original signed application form. Mr. Nissan Tzur, who so far as I am aware is a temporary resident of Kraków, has never submitted an application for membership in the Jewish Community of Warsaw..
- In accordance with article 2, para. 1 of the Act of February 20, 1997, regarding relations of the State with the Jewish religious communities in the Republic of Poland, the community comprises majority aged persons of the Judaic faith, having Polish citizenship, residing on the territory of the Republic of Poland. In the year 2000, about 200 people were members of the Community. Today there are over 600 adult members. It is not true that the Community does not accept people who are not from Poland. The law, however, requires they be citizens of Poland.
- Article 30, para. 1 of the Act of February 20, 1997, states that the parties to regulatory proceedings and therefore the beneficiaries of recovered Jewish assets are the individual Jewish Communities or the Association of Communities. The funds transferred to the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) were repayments of loan to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, transferred through the Association from the aforementioned organization in the amount of $800,000 USD. Thus it is not true, as stated in the Forbes article, that WJRO and the WJC took half of the recovered assets.
- The “alarming” (according to the authors of “Kaddish for a Million Bucks”) article in the weekly Polityka was later corrected in print after an appeal from the leadership of the Association of Jewish Religious Communities (Polityka – no. 46 (2376) of November 16, 2002).
- It is not true, as Mr. Surmacz asserts, that the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage was at any time a party to regulatory procedures. In accordance with the Act of February 20, 1997, only Jewish communities or the Association of Jewish Religious Communities can apply for restitution of Jewish property.
- The Jewish communities and the Association of Jewish Religious Communities are not authorized to lodge claims, nor have they ever done so, regarding property beyond the Bug river according to procedures for restitution of property outside of the borders of the Republic of Poland. In this matter as well, the Forbes article gave untruthful information.
- The creation of Jewish communities is regulated by the Act of February 20, 1997. In accordance with article 28 of the Act, the Jewish communities and the Association of Jewish Religious Communities, which had been in operation under the laws prior to the Act, became Jewish communities and the Association as legally understood under the new Act. Thus, it is not true that random people formed these groups, calling themselves Jewish communities. It would suffice to read point three in the correction Polityka had to publish in 2002 under the title “It was concealment” after the publication of P. Pytlakowski’s article “Give us an agreeable rabbi.”
The above is a list of some of the erroneous and inaccurate information published in the article. I am not addressing here all of the allegations and opinions expressed in the text as at this stage the matter is in the hands of our legal counsel.
I have intentionally not touched on the question of Aszkenazi’s opinion piece in Forbes. Drunk-convert, rabbi covering up corruption, liquidator of Jewish assets – all those are epithets which will see their day in court. I am of the opinion that the plaintiffs in the libel case should pay for the proceedings from their own pockets, and I will do so willingly. I am of course aware that whatever victory achieved in this case will be solely a moral one – despite the millions in gifts to the reformed community mentioned in the Forbes text, I don’t suspect Seweryn Aszkenazi of excessive wealth.
Finally, in any case once again, to those who supported me through this – my sincere thanks. To those who have been “waiting for my position and an explanation” – I hope this satisfies you.
President Association of Jewish Religious Communities