Open Orthodox Founder Avi Weiss Tells Pope Francis to Remove Catholic Church From World’s ‘Largest Jewish Cemetery’ in Auschwitz-Birkenau

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The controversial founder of the deviant Open Orthodox movement is urging the Pope to remove a Catholic church from the site of the “largest Jewish cemetery in the world.”

Avi Weiss — head of the Open Orthodox Yeshivat Chavevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat, founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and national president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-AMCHA — sent a letter to Pope Francis on Tuesday protesting the presence of the Parish Church of Brzezinka at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Poland.

The letter was sent through New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, ahead of the Pope’s visit to the camp at the end of this week.

Weiss’ letter reads:

Dear Pope Francis,

On the eve of your visit to Auschwitz -Birkenau, I ask that you visit the church at Birkenau, whose existence is in clear violation of the 1987 agreement between Roman Catholic cardinals and Jewish leaders.

The agreement stipulates in clear language that “there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.”

I have attached an article I wrote that appeared online in the Washington Post on this issue.

I have deep respect for people of all faiths, symbols and places of worship of all faiths, but a church does not belong at the largest Jewish cemetery in the world.

It was Pope John Paul who demanded that the nuns leave the convent at Auschwitz One. I ask that you find similar courage and close the church at Birkenau, and have it moved elsewhere.

With blessings,

Avi Weiss

Weiss has been an outspoken critic of the presence of two Catholic institutions set up at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1984, Carmelite nuns formed a convent in the building at Auschwitz in which the Nazis stored the deadly Zyklon B poison that was used to gas Jews to death. Around the same time, the local Catholic community founded a church in Birkenau at the site of Nazi command headquarters.

In the following years, Weiss took part in demonstrations against the Carmelite convent. According to his own account of the events, “We climbed over the fence surrounding the convent and peacefully assembled. Polish workers inside the convent poured a bucket of water mixed with urine on us, as nuns watched from the windows.” The convent was eventually shut down in 1993.

The pope visited Auschwitz-Birkenau today, his first trip to Auschwitz, and sat alone for some time by a tree in solemn reflection. He was surrounded by piles of rubble – destroyed gas chambers once used to put Jews to death. The pope’s visit to the site of wartime torture and killings came after his stern warning this week that “the world is at war.” The Pope met with survivors and their families, including Holocaust survivor and Jewish activist Marian Turski, who was held at the concentration camp. The Pope also visited the nearby Birkenau camp, known as Auschwitz II, where he met with dozens of people who housed Jews or risked their lives to protect them from the Nazis.

(c) 2016, The Algemeiner Journal



  1. Moods of Israel.

    This rabbi has a presumed time for his office. Perhaps his good he might do is indeed having an ear with the pope. I could think that the church should be removed if it is clearly too close to the premises of Auschwitz.

    Still, this is a miscarriage of humor and justice. The world must have more respect for Israel. I am quite sure that open orthodoxy is not going to be the major contributor and I am quite sure he is not the only guy who calls himself a rabbi telling the pope to make the amends. Still, witness a scary experience. I do think that open orthodoxy is headed to the open flush. Let it be soon.

  2. Even a broken (old fashioned) clock is right two times a day.

    His late father, a Bobover Hasid, came from Oshpitzin (Jewish name for the town).


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