Reporter who revealed fake Polish rabbi threatened, called anti-Semitic

Marcy Oster

Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell, from Haifa, Israel, is actually Jacek Niszczota from Poland (Facebook)

Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell, from Haifa, Israel, is actually Jacek Niszczota from Poland (Facebook)

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — A local journalist who revealed that a man who posed as a rabbi in north-central Poland for several years is not actually a rabbi has been accused of anti-Semitism in the Poznan Jewish community.

Meanwhile, the Poznan Jewish community’s lack of knowledge about the rabbi that served it has been criticized by the leaders of the Polish Jewry.

The case of the false rabbi of Poznan was uncovered by a reporter for the local newspaper Glos Wielkopolski. The newspaper discovered that Jacoob Ben Nistell, who claimed to be a rabbi from Haifa, Israel, in fact, is a cook from the Polish city of Ciechanow and his name is Jacek Niszczota. He is not Jewish, does not know Hebrew nor is he familiar with Jewish customs.

Glos Wielkopolski reported on Saturday that while in Poznan, Nistell ran a kosher kitchen for tourists from Israel and guests of the Jewish community.

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“He served food for our guests, but so what. Everyone has such a right. And he did everything from cooking to taking out the garbage,” Alicja Kobus, head of the Poznan Jewish community and vice president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, told Glos Wielkopolski. The restaurant’s menu, posted on Facebook, included falafel, stuffed grape leaves, cholent and kreplach.

Nistell reportedly has disappeared from the community he was serving and deleted his Facebook page.

Kobus reportedly has tried in recent days to intimidate Glos Wielkopolski reporter Krzysztof M. Kazmierczak, who first broke the story of the rabbi imposter, demanding that he stop writing about Nistell.

Kazmierczak was accused of anti-Semitism in a post by the administrator of the Poznan Jewish community’s Facebook page. Kazmierczak said he has not met with any other negative reactions from Jews.

“True Jews and people interested in Judaism say it is very good that I revealed the sham,” Kazmierczak told JTA. He said he believes Kobus knew for a long time that Nistell did not come from Haifa, especially since the imposter rabbi read Hebrew prayers in Polish transliteration.

“It is said that the wild animals come where there is an empty space. That’s what happened in Poznan; it shows that in a place where there is no real Jewry bad things happen,” Shalom Ber Stambler, chief Chabad rabbi in Poland, told Glos Wielkopolski.

“First of all it is a cosmic embarrassment to the Polish Rabbinate. I knew from the start that this guy was in disguise. But the rabbinate for so long did not attempt to find out who is the man claiming to be a rabbi and taking part in community celebrations. The Polish Rabbinate should read Glos Wielkopolski; many of them will learn something new,” Warsaw Jewish leader Przemyslaw Szpilman told JTA. Szpilman said he is speaking publicly on the issue as an individual member of the Polish Jewish community and not on behalf of either the board of the Jewish community in Warsaw on which he serves or as the director of the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw.

Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Union, and Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich declined to comment to JTA on the matter.

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