Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak: The Most Exciting Work of My Life

This work is personal. My family -- and over 80 percent of all Jews -- are descended from the Polish lands. I have served as a rabbi in universities and congregations for over 35 years and this is the most exciting work of my life.

As a child of survivors and as an adult after rabbinical school, I studied Holocaust era rescue efforts. I imagined that the work of rescuing Jews was connected to lost opportunities in the past.

Then, in 2008, when I was a sabbatical replacement for Rabbi Burt Schuman at Beit Warszawa, Poland's flagship Progressive congregation, I had powerful encounters with Polish Jews. When I heard them describe their road back to Judaism, it became obvious to me that substantial numbers of Poles could be restored to the Jewish people.

I dedicated myself to reaching out to Polish Jews, awakening their sense of connection to Judaism, and helping them to feel welcome. I learned that the opportunity to rescue Jews is not only past history.

In the past three years, I have met Jews in their 60s and 70s who grew up as "foundlings" raised by Catholic families. I have met others with questions about the Jewish prayerbook "discovered" in their family, These encounters make clear that there are thousands of hidden Jews, eager to be discovered.

Now led by Rabbi Gil Nativ, Beit Warszawa's warm, cozy Shabbatot are introducing a new generation of Polish Jews to the appeal of Jewish life. This wonderful place was built by a small group of philanthropists and congregations led by a Los Angeles survivor and hotel developer, Severyn Ashkenazy. Now, there is a need for broad philanthropic support to expand the Beit Warszawa model to cities across Poland.

I am proud to be a part of the work of welcoming back Polish Jews and helping them connect to Judaism. This rescue work is an opportunity to heal some of the wounds of Jewish history.

I want to recruit you and your friends to be a part of this exciting work.