Saturday, February 27, 2010

From Skinhead to Orthodox Jew


WARSAW — When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he once was before he covered his shaved head with a yarmulke, shed his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

“I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,” said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. [...]


  1. Amazing. It sounds like he didn't have to convert, since he was already halachically Jewish, but presumably his wife had to convert.

    The report in the article that there are crowds of young converts in Kracow listening to Israeli techno music sounds a bit suspicious. Though I guess it could be na-nach music.

  2. Pawel joined the army and married a fellow skinhead at age 18. But his sense of self changed irrevocably at the age of 22, when his wife, Paulina, suspecting that she had Jewish roots, went to a genealogical institute and discovered Pawel’s maternal grandparents on a register of Warsaw Jews, along with her own grandparents.

  3. Whoops -- well if that means all her grandparents, then of course she wouldn't have to convert.

    I doubt there are all that many actual converts in Poland -- though there may be a good number. I think there's a lot more Judeophiles who have entertained the idea of converting but aren't very close to actually doing so. I was in Krakow a few years ago, and there were several Jewish-style restaurants with klezmer bands playing and such, but they didn't have kashrus supervision. And there were a lot of non-Jewish klezmer bands in town. I went to a kosher dinner for the public put together by the local Jewish community, and there were definitely non-Jews there who were just interested in Judaism. So it's true there is a lot of non-Jewish interest in Judaism there. Some people compare it to Americans' fascination with Native Americans, but I think it's at least sometimes deeper than that.

  4. This is an example when someone exchange one extreme for another like many converts and BT which does not show mental stability. At least he is not complete haredi because he does plan to work...

    Reminds me of Chappelle's Show episode when the blind grand wizard of the KKK is black.

    More touching story featured here on DT is here

  5. See that there is really a lot of "hidden jews" in Poland...????
    (This goes to RaP who tends to make fun of Poles who discover their jewish identity)

  6. "This is an example when someone exchange one extreme for another like many converts and BT which does not show mental stability. At least he is not complete haredi because he does plan to work..."

    In what way is he extreme, because of the way he dresses? BTs are not allowed to dress like other religious Jews? He shouldn't keep halacha?

  7. Speaking of modern-day skinheads, here is an article of note for Jersey girl to take a look at:

    About the restoration of the Cairo synagogue. Particularly this section is important to guage the feeling of Egyptians about Jews, right now (one particular brand of Moslems and Arabs - yes, not all Egyptians are Moslem, but that is the majority and that is the Egyptian culture).

    "Both Farouk Hosny and Zahi Hawass came to accept the argument that the preservation of Egypt’s rich Jewish heritage was also their obligation. Slowly but quietly — always quietly — they drew up plans for restoring most Jewish religious sites...

    Only a few knew. Every meeting I had with these Egyptian officials ended with the same admonition — “Please, do not tell anyone.”

    Why the secrecy when most governments would want the world to know of such commendable preservation work?

    In Egypt, the history of living alongside Jewish neighbors has been replaced with the demonizing of Israel, and often of Jews as well. The historic 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty has for too long been ignored by Egypt’s cultural elites who have steadfastly rejected any normalization in relations. Minister Hosny and his colleagues have had reason to fear that Egyptians would react with anger when told of the restoration work."

    Key point - culturally the Egyptians harbor Jew-hatred, not even "just" Israeli or zionist-hatred, but Jew-hatred as well, as it is pointed out in the article. And the key point here is that restoring a historical egyptian heritage site just because it is a Jewish synagogue, will cause anger amongst the Egyptian 'street' and therefore must be kept quiet.

    There are some lunatics who deface cemetaries... But would the "xtian street" or the American "street" erupt with anger and rioting if the American govt made a Jewish museum? Of course not. Does the American govt have to keep such actions quiet and hidden? Of course not. And they have done these things many times in many places.

    But Jersey girl would have us ignore all of this, and just pretend that we are living in the golden age of Spain (before the muslim persecutions came to spain) and pretend that the Moslems love us because hey some midrash says they might do teshuvah some day, and hey xtians are really bad to us so therefore Muslims get a free pass.

  8. I know that it is not the journalistic norm, but I wish that "skinhead" could be prefaced with "racist". Not all skinheads are racist. I know of born Jewish skinheads who grew up in Jewish homes. I even know of a Jewish skinhead who refrained from getting any tattoos because of halacha. Unfortunately articles like this may lead the public to believe that they are self-hating Jews, chas v'shalom.


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