Polish city council rejects zoning plan to protect Jewish cemetery

Marcy Oster

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — A meat production plant in Poland can build a high-rise apartment building on the grounds of a Jewish cemetery.

The Bialystok City Council rejected a zoning plan on Monday that would have prevented the plant’s expansion proposal. The vote was 12-8 with one abstention.

“In the center of Bialystok there were six cemeteries,” council member Zbigniew Brozek said at the meeting. “If we want to protect them, it would be impossible to build anything [in the city].”

One of the councilmen said that we are in Poland, not Israel, according to Lucy Lisowska, a representative of the Jewish Community in Bialystok, the largest city in northeastern Poland. Lisowska told JTA that the comment “hurt me.”

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“I am Polish, and I am a Pole of Jewish origin. I respect Polish law because it is my law, but there is still our religious law, which does not allow exhumations, the violation of peace of the dead and prohibits digging at the cemetery,” she said.

The plant was built at the cemetery during the communist period. Today it is owned by a private company, Arsa.

“The last burials here were in 1892,” Estera Zablocka of Arsa told JTA. “In 1964, the cemetery was secularized with the consent of the Jewish community.”

The new plan was rejected with the votes of council members from the right-wing Law and Justice party, which according to recent polls has the best chance of winning the October parliamentary elections in Poland.

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