Supporting Jewish culture to undermine Catholic dominance in Poland?

The desire to dissociate Polish identity from a Catholic version of it forcefully promoted by the church has led a number of non-Jewish Poles to support the renewal of Jewish culture, according to Geneviève Zubrzycki (University of Michigan) at the International Society for the Sociology of Religion conference in Barcelona that RW attended. The kind of secularization that some observers had expected in the 1990s has not taken place in Poland. Catholicism remains important in Polish life, with a high level of church attendance, but the alliance between the government and the Catholic Church is nevertheless meeting a growing resistance, including within the church itself, while other people choose to leave it and a growing number of young adults claim to never set foot in church (from 10 percent in 2004 to 18 percent in 2014).

Still, it is not easy to secularize Polishness in a country where around 95 percent of people still self-identify as Catholic, noted Zubrzycki. One of the unexpected ways is for non-Jews to support the renaissance of Judaism in Poland in order to weaken Catholicism’s dominance over the nation’s identity. Zubrzycki illustrated this approach with the statement of a young woman who said she was happy to see Orthodox Jews in Krakow because it broke the monopoly of the black cassocks of Catholic priests. Similarly, Jewish renewal is seen by evangelical groups in Poland as helping to undermine Catholic hegemony. For those reasons and others, all things Jewish are becoming popular beyond the Jewish community. There are nonreligious people who comment that they are glad to see a vibrant Jewish life starting again in Poland because “there’s something else that we already know” offering a welcome change from the omnipresent Catholic symbols and practices. Jewish renewal may thus also serve the aspirations among some sectors of Polish society for a secular country.