As Shabbat ended in Los Angeles, one of my friends frantically showed me the news on his cell phone about the airplane crash which killed the Polish President and his wife. Many other high ranking members of the Polish Government, the entire Army leadership, the Bank of Poland President, a half dozen priests and others perished. In the hour after-wards, I read through the websites, and Polish news sites looking at all the people who died on that fateful trip. Luckily, one of them was not my long time friend and colleague, Rabbi Michael Schudich, Chief Rabbi of Poland.
Rabbi Schudrich has more than once gone to Katyn for memorial prayers – he has drawn attention to the fact that many Jews were among the victims of the massacre of Polish Army prisoners of war carried out by the Soviets Union in 1940.
This time he was not on the plane because the plane left on Shabbat and he declined to travel with them.
The small Jewish community of Poland lost several good friends among the nearly 100 people who died. Most of the community is in shock along with the rest of the country.
Hundreds of people packed Warsaw’s Nozyk synagogue including students on the March of the Living who are in Poland this week for the annual pilgrimage to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rabbi Schudrich led the a communal memorial prayer, and several good friends of his were among the victims.
There are many questions that will be answered in the coming days. Our prayers go out to the families of the victims, the Jewish community and the people of Poland.