Worshipers blocked from Polish synagogue in inter-community row
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Worshipers blocked from Polish synagogue in inter-community row

Property dispute between Chabad and separate Orthodox group in Krakow escalates, leaving men wantng to pray stuck outside

Guards from a private security firm wearing balaclavas blocked the entrance to the Izaak Synagogue in Krakow, Poland, amid a dispute between the local Jewish community and the Chabad-run synagogue, July 1, 2019. (Michael Berenbaum/JTA)
Guards from a private security firm wearing balaclavas blocked the entrance to the Izaak Synagogue in Krakow, Poland, amid a dispute between the local Jewish community and the Chabad-run synagogue, July 1, 2019. (Michael Berenbaum/JTA)

KRAKOW, Poland – Security guards barred worshipers affiliated with the Chabad movement from entering a synagogue in Krakow, Poland, amid a property dispute between its Chabad-affiliated rabbi and the city’s separate Orthodox Jewish community.

The Chabad community has been leasing the building from the Jewish Community of Krakow-Gmina, a local representative body not affiliated with Chabad, since 2008, according to the daily Gazeta Wyborca. A representative of the Chabad congregation told the paper that it has a valid lease on the building.

But on Monday, guards from a private security firm wearing balaclavas blocked the entrance to what is commonly known as the Izaak Synagogue. The regular worshipers prayed outside the locked synagogue and called police, who arrived at the scene.

In a blog post on The Times of Israel, Avi Baumol, a representative of Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, said the guards keeping people out were armed.

“We were stuck outside with our prayer shawls, phylacteries, and the Torah from which we would read during our service. We managed to retrieve a Torah and use it outside the bolted gate,” he wrote.

He said Holocaust survivor Dov Landau, 90, was among those locked out, with his ritual prayer items left inside the building.

“He was crying and calling out to the guards, telling them that this was the same experience he had had 77 years ago, with the German guards,” Baumol wrote.

The Jewish Community of Krakow — which last month faced protests for its leasing of a former synagogue to serve as a bar cafe — had also recently shut down the building’s water and electricity supply, in a bid to get the Chabad congregation to leave, according to the report.

In a statement, the Jewish Community of Krakow denied being contractually obligated to allow use of the synagogue. It said the congregation that used the building had damaged it, including by allowing mold to grow on some walls and rewiring electricity without a permit.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was not able to reach leaders of the Jewish Community of Krakow for comment Monday morning.

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