Beit Centrum Ki Tov is a new Progressive Community initiated by Beit Polska Members, in Warsaw’s heart.
For many years there were plans to increase Beit Warszawa’s activities in central Warsaw. In November 2015 ten Beit Polska Members announced their wish to form a Warsaw Centre community. Beit Centrum Ki Tov opened its doors in Warsaw’s heart on 1st Nisan 5776 (8th April 2016), near four other Synagogues (Chabad, Orthodox, Gregorian and non-affiliated Reform). Beit Warszawa is 10 km from the centre.
Soon after our November announcement, supported by 3 Rabbis and Severyn Aszkenazy (main Beit Warszawa sponsor), we started to organise. The 3 room premises were easily found. David Sarnat in the USA heard our Sefer Torah request and passed our emotional plea to Samuel M. Bernstine, President of Temple Hadar Israel, Newcastle, Pennsylvania. In Early March the Temple Board agreed to donate a Sefer Torah which had travelled to the USA from Poland a 111 years ago. During Purim celebrations the Scroll was carried across the States to Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak in Los Angeles. Then our Rabbi brought the gift to Warsaw. The Scroll was greeted by Beit Warszawa and spent its 1st Shabbat in Poland nestling between two Sifrei Torah.
Meanwhile, together with Zivah Nativ, we were furnishing, koshering and preparing our Italian Style Synagogue for our Sefer Torah’s homecoming.
Just before Erev Shabbat 1st Nisan 5776, (many years earlier the Mishkan was inaugurated the same day), the Sefer Torah was received into the community and its home. In a procession led by Marek Jezowski (now Beit Polska President), Rabbi Gil Nativ and Rabbi Boris Dolin the Torah Scroll was carried in with much pomp. With great joy we lit Shabbat candles and our three Shliach Tzibur, Anna Riveiro, Shmuel Kowalski and Avigail Geniusz led the first Beit Centrum Ki Tov Synagogue Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv services. The evening continued until late with our first Dairy Parve feast and lots of singing. During the Shacharit Torah Service we paraded our wonderful gift and rolled our single Scroll twice for the 3 separate readings for Shabbat Gadol on Rosh Chodesh.
Two weeks later we celebrated our first Pesach, again rolling and rerolling our lonely Scroll during Shacharit. Then a friend offered to lend his dusty kosher Scroll - minus the etz hayyim and mantle. We accepted the disabled and naked offer. We acquired second hand “limbs” in the UK and Beit Warszawa donated the covering.
In 9 months our congregation increased to over 20 strong, plus 8 children and several regular guests. Led by our HHD qualified Shliach Tzibur, we held regular services every Shabbat Eve and morning and celebrated all the festivals, feasts (including in our balcony Sukkah) and HHD. We had our first; baby naming, Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah. In 2017 we have already lined up 4 Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.
Apart from Beit Polska’s (the umbrella body) generous gift of 50 Siddurim and 25 Machzorim, all sponsors were visitors or individuals associated with our Synagogue. The contributions were either money, time and or items. Shmuel donated our Bimah, Aron Kodesh and guestroom furniture and was our handyman. Avigail decorated the Aron Kodesh and made the Synagogue homely and inviting. Joe Smoczyński donated tables, chairs and kitchen equipment. Nachszon Lipa built our website. Our members regularly give their time, bring food and leave something in our Pushke. We run on a thin fraying shoestring budget.
We are waiting for Beit Polska to formally change our associated status to full membership. With legal personality we plan to cater for visiting groups. We have seating capacity for 30 easily, 40 comfortably and a 50 tight squeeze. We tried out our facilities, menu, songs and introduction and background to Poland discussions on two groups. All were delighted with our facilities and presentations, with no holiday tummy being reported.
With the effort of 10’s of devoted people from Rabbis to children, from neighbours to far off friends, from donors to workers, from hinderers to hinderers, we have a thriving Synagogue in the heart of Warsaw - Beit Centrum Ki Tov.
Beit Polska is Poland’s Progressive Jewish umbrella organisation established in 2009 by Jews wishing to formalise, under law, their customs, religious practices and self-determination. We are the heirs of the spiritual legacy of Polish Jews who considered themselves a part of the modern religious quest that emerged from the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah). The Jewish Enlightenment in turn was fostered by many individuals who lived in the Polish lands and used German and Hebrew as their key languages of communication with each other but used Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Yiddish, and French in talking to their communities. The natural use of languages by early “Jewish Enlighteners” should not obscure the rootedness in their Polish-Jewish reality. From its inception, Progressive Judaism's emblematic expression was the weekly sermon which was delivered in Polish.
The shifting policies of the dominating imperial powers (Austro-Hungarian, Prussian and Russian) that dismantled Poland created special circumstances in which the ideals of the Jewish Enlightenment functioned in Jewish communities (Gminas) from 1802 up to 1939. During the brief independence of Poland from 1918 to 1939 Progressive rabbis and many lay leaders expressed their commitment to Jewish life through the Progressive movement. The independent movement which numbered as much as ten per cent of Poland’s 3.5 million Jews established institutes in over 40 towns and cities. Progressive Judaism in Poland moved from the edges of Jewish society to embody much of the leadership in anticipation of an independent Poland. Among the leaders of Polish Jewry were Abraham Goldschmidt, Marcus Jastrow, Izaak Cylkow, Izaak Kramsztyk, Samuel A. Poznanski, Moses Schorr, Szymon Dankowicz and Ozjasz Thon.
We endeavour to foster congregational religious life powerfully moored in the traditions of Torah learning, a love of the Jewish people and all humanity in the context of our sense of belonging to Poland; endeavouring to develop a life of ethical and moral rectitude; living in harmony with all God’s creation. Pre-World War II Progressive Judaism in Poland, was always drawn to the hope of Zionism and contemporary Progressive Judaism expresses admiration for Israel. We are proudly affiliated to the European Union for Progressive Judaism and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
We, the members of Beit Polska - Progressive Jewish Communities, feeling ourselves to be representatives of all the above, hereby declare and make known our will to continue formally in the Republic of Poland as a Jewish religious organisation in the mainstream of Progressive Judaism.
Rank: Sergeant Major
Unit: Paratrooper (Airborne Infantry) Battalion 71-565; 9264; 9
Fell: Yom Kippur War
Buried: Kiryat Tiv'on
Michael, son of Leora and Max, born on Twenty-seventh of Adar II 5706 (30/03/1946) in Kiryat Bialik, north of Haifa. He moved with his family to Kiryat Tiv'on where he attended a Public Elementary School and then graduated from Chaim Greenberg High School. Mickey, as he was called by his family and friends, was a good student, who excelled in the subjects he liked. He did not have to devote too much time for homework. Already as a child his intelligence proved to be above average. An adult could seriously discuss with him any subject. In the Elementary School he was "the king of his class" -a handsome boy, the best athlete and the best student. Nevertheless, Mickey was modest and did not brag. His approach to nature was based on logic from an early age. As a high school student he attempted to understand all phenomena and how they fitted into the basic laws of nature. This attempt led him to study philosophy in depth. Mickey was a mature teen-ager, always thinking before expressing his opinion. On the other hand had a sense of humor and loved to laugh cheerfully. Mickey was one of the founders of the Scouts Youth Movement in Tiv'on, being one of its first counselors. As an athlete he excelled particularly in long distance running. His leisure time was mostly devoted to reading. He read books on many subjects such as chess, photography, cooking, fiction, poetry, history, geography and philosophy. He read almost every book that he could lay his hands on. As an extra-curricular activity in high school he belonged to a group of modern poetry readers, but his electives in High School were the exact science.
Mickey had much love for the outdoors. During Childhood he hiked the valleys and the hills around Tiv’on, and in his youth walked the length and breadth of the land of Israel. Whenever he saw wild tulips he would place a sign warning: “Do not uproot us!". He was often walking, sometimes with his family but always being their guide, photographed, studied and found new things. His love of nature was also reflected in his love for animals. His drive for the preservation of nature extended even to protecting non-dangerous snakes. His sense of justice was the one sense that guided him on his way over the years. When he was a high school student he absolutely refused to cheat during an exam, as was customary among most of his classmates. Mickey’s knowledge discerned the important things in life for him, allowing him to make appropriate priorities. However he wanted to experience creativity in all fields: Painting, singing, dancing, traveling, filming, cooking, music, visiting exhibitions and reading books. Thanks to his good manners, kindness, wisdom and sensitivity, he was always considered a loyal loving friend, and played a central role within any group of people he was associated, contributing to the organization of group singing and creating an atmosphere of happiness for its own sake. Mickey grew up in a loving home, and appreciated it. Thus was very attached to his family, both in love and friendship.
When Michael was drafted into the IDF in early August 1964 he volunteered for the Paratroopers. After the initial training and the training course for squad commanders, he served as a squad-commander of a paratrooper unit. After his release from regular military service, in October 1966, he was placed in a reserve unit. During the Six Day War (June 1967) he fought in the conquest of the Old City in Jerusalem, and in 1968 fought in the battle of Karameh. In spite of being an excellent combat soldier, he felt revulsion toward war and military lifestyle. He was able to see things from a human perspective, even in the midst of battle. Thanks to this combination he was a good commander, knowing how to take care of his troops.
In Oct. 1966 Mickey began studying at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He completed his undergraduate studies in physics and mathematics. After his MA in physics he began working on his doctoral thesis, which dealt with the field of space-interior conductivity of zinc oxide crystals.
Mickey loved living in Jerusalem. He took many photographs of the city. The short 'time-off' from his academic studies he spent developing his own photos, reading books and listening to his favorite records. He enjoyed social life, finding a common language with every person, thanks to his knowledge in many areas. He excelled due to his education, was very articulate, and was able to talk about issues relating to his studies and work, clearly and simply. He strove tirelessly to achieve his academic goals, keeping absolute clarity through comprehensive analysis.
In addition to his major in Physics, he also took a course in Jewish Thought at the university. He served as a part-time teacher, first at a municipal high school and later in the physics lab at the Hebrew University.
During the Yom Kippur War Mickey fought in the battles against Egypt on the frontline. In the battle on 22nd Tishrei (18/10/1973), at the intersection called ‘Tzach’, west of the Suez Canal, Mickey was hit and killed during the assault on Abu Sultan. He was laid to rest at the military cemetery in Kiryat Tiv'on. He is survived by his parents and sister. After his death he was promoted to Chief-Sergeant. In his memory, his parents published a booklet recording the words of family members, friends and teachers about him. The battalion in which he served also published a booklet in memory of fallen soldiers, which contains a chapter about Michael Mokotov, of blessed memory.