Outrage Over Polish Chief Rabbi’s Attendance in Church Ceremony


schudrich-poland-smallRabbi Michael Shudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, has created a stir for attending a ceremony held in a church for Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, who died along with 95 others earlier this month when their plane crashed in thick fog on its approach to Smolensk airport, in western Russia.

The event was held prior to the funeral of the president and his wife.

The ceremony in Krakow was led by the Archbishop of Krakow, and the coffins were then carried through the city. Thousands of Poles lined the streets of Krakow to say goodbye to President Kaczynski. After the ceremony, the coffins were taken to Krakow’s Wawel cathedral.

But What has garnered attention in the global Jewish community, Matzav.com has learned, is a photo showing Polish Chief Rabbi Shudrich at the ceremony held inside a Krakow church.

schudrich-poland55-year-old Rabbi Schudrich was born in New York City and lived in Patchogue, New York, where his father, Rabbi David Schudrich, served as a pulpit rabbi. He received Conservative semicha from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and later an Orthodox semicha through Yeshiva University from Rabbi Moshe Tendler. He served as rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan from 1983 to 1989.

He went to Poland in June 2000 as Rabbi of Warsaw and Łódź, and in December 2004 was appointed Chief Rabbi of Poland. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the Conference of European Rabbis.

Since entering a church is forbidden according to halacha, the Polish Chief Rabbi’s decision to attend the ceremony – which was revealed in the photo of him in attendance – has many people up in arms.

Other Jewish rabbis and representatives, according to sources, remained outside the church during the ceremony.

The participation of Rabbi Shudrich in the ceremony has infuriated many rabbis in Europe and elsewhere.

Rumors of his participation were first denied by some, but were later confirmed after the picture from the Polish news agency PAP emerged. In the photo, he is seen standing between two cross-wearing priests.

The latest incident comes just months after a different gaffe, in which Rabbi Shudrich, in an interview with BBC, called Pope John Paul with the title of “zichrono livracha – of blessed memory.”

In response to the outrage over his attendance at the Polish ceremony, Rabbi Schudrich has said that he “got a heter from a respected posek.” The posek, he stated, said that “if I am invited by the government, it is my duty to go, but if I was invited by the church, I may not go. …I was invited by the government. This was a national event for everyone.”

Rabbi Shudrich would not reveal who the posek is.

 {Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. He did not reveal who the posek was

    Obviously. This is a new derech. People go to court and not to din tora. Why? The have a heter from a Rov. Which Rov? Sorry can’t tell. and so the story goes with rabbi Shudrich. If you got a heter say from whom. If he doesn’t say, Orthodox jewry should shy away from him. He is not this great leader in Poland that we need to support him.

    If he is conservative and goes his way. No problem. We live in a democratic society. He can do as he chooses. But that leaves us to do the same. On a very Eidaleh manner.

  2. Schudrich’s graduated, and was ordained, from the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary. He also headed a Conservative pulpit in Japan.

  3. You shouldn’t get involved in taking cheap shots here.

    There is kinoh here, also some Haredim don’t like that a Modern Orthodox Rabbi is the chief Rabbi.

    He asked a sheila, so what do you want from him? He has been praised by Haredim in the past, he worked a lot with R. Chaskel Besser z”l too. Did R. Besser complain about him? I believe that he praised him.

    The extreme reaction raises questions if there is more here than meets the eye.

  4. We don’t know anything bu the facts presented here, let’s not judge a jewish rabbi’s whole life from possibly unreliable facts. Furthermore, maybe he really did have a heter? We don’t know, so we can’t judge, leave that part to God.

  5. The Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth always attends events in Westminster Abbey. Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa and son of the Nazir, attended the pope’s funeral at the Vatican. There is a mesorah for Rabbi Schudrich’s actions; although I may not agree with them, they can’t be deligitimized and viewed as lacking precedent.

  6. How does a Conservative get smicha from Yeshiva University and then go on to a prestigous position representing Orthodox Yidden? This has got to end in my opinion. Conservative philosophy is a Pauline Xtian philosophy. Is it any wonder that these disgusting breaches occur?

  7. To me this rabbi sounds like a tinok shenishbu who was previously a conservative rabbi so whats the fuss about he’s not orthodox, and he certainly wont become orthodox with the warmth he’s recieving now

  8. Matzav.com writes an attack giving no names as to who is doing the attacking (I would guess Rabbis outside may be behind it), or who told matzav about it, and then proceeds to attack R. Shudrich for not giving the name of his poseik. How consistent.

    Who put you up to it? Did matzav ask a sheila before posting it?

    I don’t say that R. Shudrich is infallible, but he is korov limalchus there, so sometimes that can be a factor in pesak halocho. Also remember, al tadin es chaveircho ad shetagia limkomo. Poland is not the USA either. It is for poseik to decide, not websites.

  9. Why such a provocative headline? If you would have written “Questions about attendance at church ceremony” – would that not have been enough?

  10. This is a delicate question and people who are not aware of the circumstances and do not have to live wih the consequences can criticize. if the rabbi had not attended, it could have had negative ramifications for Polish Jewry. The posek doesn’t want to make his name public because he doesn’t want to be harassed by people who will denigrae him. When Rav Shteinman allowed boys to go to the army, he was attacked. This terrrises the rabbis.

  11. Dear Lakewood guy. You should really reconsidder your tagname. Do you really want to be the guy who whatever silly remark comes to, the rest of the world then associates with Lakewood?

  12. We have to be dan l’kaf z’chus, we don’t know the facts.

    Thats Bobbeh talk. Thats not l’halocha what it means. (dont bring me the halucha). We know the facts he went to the church. Period, Aint nobody gonna love us more or less. An orthodox Rov would never have done it. All gentiles respect someone who sticks to their religion than someone who capitulates .

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  14. Heh. Rabbi Lookstein, perhaps, who paskened for himself that he could go into a church for an interfaith ceremony with Barack Obama?

  15. A number of years ago, when there was a shooting in a college in Montreal, six women were killed. A frum city councilman, asked a shaila to the late Gaon Rabbi Aizik Schwei,z”l, a well known Posek
    in the Montreal Vaad Hair. He absolutely gave him a heter to attend the funeral that was in a church.

  16. People, remember that this is NOT a closed forum.
    We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.
    Remember that there are still acheinu back in Poland who have to deal with the realities there.
    Here is a man who, with his family, has dedicated some time to live under difficult conditions to be there. I think there is a LOT of room to be dan lekaf zechus, and at the least to have the humility to say that we don’t know what’s flying there.

  17. Going into a church under any circumstances is very questionable to say the least.
    The other Rabbonim did the correct thing, they went to a secular outdoor gathering together with Heads of State and other dignitaries

  18. The Schudrich-Christian aliance, goes much further than what he have to and must. He wrote about his afinity to the pope in a Washington Post-Newsweek forum, titled ‘What a Rabbi Learned from a Pope.’

    Its a shame that someone glorifying the pope and christianity should call him sele Orthodox Rabbi? Who gave him a heter for this?

    Check it out on the link below: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2009/03/what_a_rabbi_learned_from_a_pope.html

    What a Rabbi Learned from a Pope
    By Michael Schudrich
    Chief Rabbi of Poland
    I am just back from giving a lecture honoring Pope John Paul II, at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. I delivered my lecture in the same hall where John Paul, the student, attended classes. What a humbling, and particularly relevant experience…
    But what do I know about Popes and Catholicism? I was born in New York in 1955; my father was a Rabbi. My first clear memory of anything Christian was one Shabbat morning when I was seven. On the way synagogue, I saw large black banners hanging on a nearby church. My Father explained that a great man called Pope John XXIII had died, and that he had done many great things. I remember understanding, for the first time, that goodness and greatness existed outside of my group. A crucial lesson for a child.
    By 1979 I was in Rabbinical school, studying at a university in Poland that summer. I remember my surprise seeing a photo of Pope John Paul II hanging in a Jewish friend’s home in Warsaw. By 1990, I was working in Warsaw full time and heard many stories about the Pope’s lifelong dedication to learning from others.
    John Paul profoundly explained: “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion.” Christianity’s unique relationship with Judaism creates special responsibilities — an essential lesson for Christians. But it’s a lesson for us Jews, too, who have learned from bitter historical experience to close our doors to the outside.
    Pope John Paul understood the Jewish concept of “the other”. When one is well rooted in one’s own tradition, then one only benefits by studying and experiencing other religious traditions. The more one is open, the more one enriches his or her belief and gains greater respect and appreciation for “the other”.
    Pope John Paul II understood that all are created in God’s image — he could talk to kings and presidents, children and the common person. He was both the Pope and a true shepherd. I remember the one time in my life that I had the honor to speak privately to him. It was during the tenth anniversary of the Day of Judaism, a Vatican celebration. I remember how he held my hand, my hand in his hand, communicating far more in that human touch than can be transmitted through language that is inherently limited. How much I learned from that experience.
    The end of Pope John Paul’s life was a very difficult time in Poland. The funeral was on a Friday. My synagogue in Warsaw announced a memorial prayer for the Pope at the start of Shabbat. As I approached the synagogue, I was shocked.
    The line of those waiting to get inside the synagogue was huge. Over 1,000 people attended — a few hundred were local Polish Jews and the rest were Polish Catholics. Just think – hundreds of Catholics accepting that it was normal to share prayer for the Pope in a synagogue in Poland! In one clear moment, I saw before my eyes how Pope John Paul II had changed the world. How so much of what he practiced during his own life had truly inspired others to act similarly. For me, this is the ultimate tribute to the teachings and life of Pope John Paul II.
    The recent Bishop controversy serves to underscore the need to be open to “the other” and to continue John Paul’s interreligious work. We have learned in the past two months that there will be difficult periods in our relationship, but it is thanks to the last 40 years of dialogue and debate that we can productively face these complex times and continue to move forward, in deeper dialogue with all faiths.
    As a Jew and as a Rabbi, I have learned from Pope John Paul II that the more I am open to other religions, the better Jew I become and the more I am able to fulfill the teachings of the Talmud. Furthermore, when I close myself off from the outside world, I limit my access to rays of light, truth, and wisdom. This philosophy so changed my view of the world, of my God and of myself, that all I can say is thank you, Pope John Paul II for teaching me how to become a better person and a better Jew. Thank you.
    Rabbi Michael Schudrich has been Chief Rabbi of Poland since 2004. His recent keynote address at Angelicum, in Rome, is part of the 2nd Annual Pope John Paul II Lecture on Interreligious Understanding , sponsored by the Russell Berrie Foundation of Teaneck, NJ, a leading foundation with a focus on Jewish identity, religious pluralism, and interreligious dialogue

  19. The Polish chief rabbi spent many years at JTS and was ordained there. He was really never at YU but was given ordaination because Lauder and Rabbi Besser wanted an Orthodox rabbi as the officaiting rabbi in Warsaw.
    In fact Shudrich is in the US for the good part of every month and the so called Warsaw rabbinate is administered by others.
    Yes you can give someone Orthodox smicha, but as they say in Yiddish you kenst nit arufton a naye kop af em. You can not give him a new head. A Conservative rabbi does not change that easily. All that said I confess that being the head of the Jewish community in Warsaw today is a tricky position and we ought to show a bit more toleranc efor Shudrich than for people in like situations in the US., and even there things are not always clear cut.

  20. Rabbi Shudrich was honoring the memories of a President of Poland and his wife who gave the highest degree of respect to the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

    If this meant entering the Church to demonstrate that Jews too were affected by this tragedy, then Rabbi Shudrich must be hailed as a courageous man. He knew well in advance what this would do to his reputation, and yet he chose to put the honor of the President of Poland above his own. What could be more noble.

    As for his admiration of the Pope, let us not forget that this Pope enabled the opening of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel, and long before he was Pope, he was responsible for saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust. He referred to Jews as “our older brothers” and when in Jerusalem visited the Western Wall and Yad Vashem where he met some of the people he had known in his youth, and whose lives in some cases, he had saved.
    Does he not deserve to have his memory honored? That is all that Zichrono Livracha means. The translation is ‘of blessed memory’. In the days when he was an ordinary priest, Pope John Paul II was a light in the darkness of Poland. Rabbi Shudrich simply chose to acknowledge that.
    Those who criticize Rabbi Shudrich for paying his respects to those who deserve the respect of the Jewish People would do well to look in the mirror and see if their own souls need cleansing.


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