Poland’s "Catholic" B’nai Noach

‘My personal Atlantis’

By Goel Pinto


Janusz Makuch is visibly moved when he talks about the opening show he is planning for next year’s Festival of Jewish Culture, to be held in Krakow. He fantasizes and gesticulates like a performer acting out a play, and his English is peppered with Yiddish and Hebrew words. He repeats the phrase “with God’s help” in a thick Polish accent and with a frequency typical of traditional Jewish Israelis.

For next year’s festival, he envisions two enormous stages: One in Jerusalem on a slope adjoining the Old City walls, and another in the central square in Kazimierz, Krakow’s old Jewish quarter. Giant screens will facilitate communication between both stages. The evening will open with the sounds of three cantors and a choir in Jerusalem singing to Krakow. Singers and cantors in Poland will respond.

“The entire evening will be a message to the world,” he says. “The whole world will be able to view the dialogue, the bridge that will open between Poland and Israel, between Jew and non-Jew. It’s a crazy concept, I know, but I will do it” …

“In my opinion, the seminars and lectures are the most important feature of the festival,” he says. “Imagine a week-long workshop in an ancient synagogue in which two Jewish women from Warsaw teach 50 Polish children and their Catholic, Polish mothers about Passover, Rosh Hashanah and even Shavuot. As far as I am concerned, that is the goal: To teach children to maintain an open approach to the world in general and the Jewish world in particular in the hope that they will become pluralistic citizens when they grow up” …

When Makuch speaks of “we,” the Jews, as opposed to “them,” the non-Jews, and employs the Hebrew word for soul, neshama, to express his real connection to Jewish culture, one might mistakenly assume that he is Jewish. But he comes from a Catholic family and is married to a Catholic who serves as the chief editor of a major publishing house in Poland …


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