For the first time in a long time I had a real two-week holiday. Virtually without the Internet or any other means of communication. While I was away, two things happened – one good and one bad.
A Polish-Jewish businessman residing in the US, Seweryn Aszkenazy, lost a lawsuit after he tried to sue Ms. Katarzyna Markusz, the head of jewish.org.pl.
The authorities of the Jewish community in Warsaw and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities blocked her access to the website www.jewish.og.pl, of which she had been the administrator, without any explanation. It happened just before a new version of the website was launched, on which she had been working for months thanks to a grant she had applied for and received.
Let’s start with the lawsuit.
Seweryn Aszkenazy, who has been supporting the Judaic religious organization Beit Warszawa and Beit Polish for several years, decided to go to court after the article „Heritage? – I’ll take it ‚as is” http://www.jewish.org.pl/index. php / en / wiadomopci-mainmenu-57/6015-heritage-ill-take-it-as-is.html was posted on the website. In the lawsuit, he accused the Author, Ms. Katarzyna Markusz, of infringement of his personal rights and providing false information.
In the conclusion of the trial that started in October 2014, the court dismissed all of Aszkenazy’s allegations, ordering him to cover the costs of the proceedings. The court also did not find any shortcomings in Ms. Katarzyna Markusz’s work as a journalist.
An interesting aspect of the trial was Aszkenazy’s testimony regarding the issue of him financing Mr. Nissan Tzur, former associate of Ma’ariv, Jerusalem Post and other Israeli media. Once the conclusion of the ruling and the minutes of Aszkenazy’s testimony are available in writing, another article will probably be written – the question remains where it will be published.
For unless some fundamental things change, it most certainly will not be published on jewish.org.pl.
I am the founder of that website.
It was created in the early 1990s, with virtually hand-built servers, subsidized in turn by the ORT, the Ronald S Lauder Foundation, and the AJDC. Since its launching well over ten years ago, it has published thousands of articles and it was one of the first online sources of information on Polish Jews, religion, and the State of Israel. It was there, on jewish.org.pl, that another important source of information about Jews was born – namely the Forum of Polish Jews.
Serious journalists have written for the website.
The website has been developing freely, with various types of texts being posted– at times somewhat controversial. Until recently, none of the sponsors ever interfered with its content. Each polemist always had the right to retort. During all these years, not once did the website have to publish a dementi. What mattered was that the text was good, interesting and honest.
Last year, there was a change of the authorities of the Jewish Community in Warsaw and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities. The new authorities did not want jewish.org.pl to be a source of information, nor a website dedicated to journalism, but rather a place where they could be promoted.
First problems started during the debate on the location of the monument to the Righteous Among the Nations in front of Museum of the History of Polish Jews. At first it was subtle, but soon it was „suggested” that some topics better be avoided. The new authorities of the Jewish Community in Warsaw and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities banned any critical texts about the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or the Mayor of Grodzisk Mazowiecki (where a private company wants to build an underground parking lot at the Jewish cemetery), as well as other ministries and local government.
In my youth we called it “censorship”.
Readers of jewish.org.pl must have noticed that in recent months the website has become a source of information in events past and future. It has ceased to be a place of controversy and discussion.
Now it has ceased to be at all.
I am writing these words feeling very bitter indeed.
The medium that has existed for years, funded by various organizations, representing a wide range of political views, was first reduced and then blocked without any consultation or explanation, by people who perhaps thanks to that very place learned what it means to be Jewish. They could benefit from that source of knowledge, produced through the effort of many people for many years. One that has been active on the „Jewish street” ceaselessly and much longer than they have.