WARSAW - Rabbi Burt E. Schuman, senior Progressive Rabbi of Poland and Rabbi of Beit Warszawa, Warsaw's Progressive Jewish Community, e-mailed the Mirror after the airplane crash that took the lives of Polish President Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, as well as many dignitaries.
Schuman served as rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Altoona for 11 years before accepting his position at Beit Warszawa in 2006.
In his statement Schuman said, "I have been deeply moved by the expressions of concern and support I have received for the people of Poland at this time of cataclysmic national tragedy. Not only did we lose President Kaczynski and his wife on that fateful plane crash over Smolensk, but much of Poland's leadership ... .
"Many of these individuals were people that I either I had met and conversed with or had seen at official functions, adding to my own personal sense of shock and grief," he said.
Schuman also said that the deaths came at time when Poland and Jews were remembering tragic events in history.
He noted that the leaders were to attend the 70th observance of thousands of Polish officers, among them about 900 Jewish officers and chaplains by Stalin's secret police.
The airplane crash also came just before Jews observed Yom HaShoah (Israel's memorial day for the Holocaust) and Poland's March of the Living at Auschwitz.
Schuman said, "Many in our community lost close personal friends. Moreover, the Jews of Poland have lost a great friend and advocate in President Kaczynski."
He said the president often spoke about the Jewish contribution to Polish history, including during commemorations at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial and last summer at the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto.
He said Kaczynski was known for his dialogue with Israeli President Shimon Peres and financially supported the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
"We in Poland's Progressive Jewish Community join our sisters and brothers throughout the world, not only our fellow Jews but people of every religion, nationality and culture in praying for and with the people of Poland in this time of national tragedy," Schuman said.