AJC Hails President Obama’s Visit to Poland

As President Obama’s visit to Poland ended, American Jewish Committee (AJC) hailed the visit as an important reaffirmation of Poland’s successful transformation from a Soviet satellite state to a linchpin of the Western community – and as a key American ally.

“We had long encouraged this trip,” said AJC executive director David Harris (pictured above). ”Not only was it important to Poland to have such a presidential visit, but it also sent an unmistakable message of just how far Poland has come since 1989, when it courageously helped spearhead the collapse of Communism and the Soviet bloc.”

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During the course of his 24-hour visit to Warsaw, the president met with leading Polish officials; addressed Polish security and energy concerns; paid tribute to Polish victims of the Nazis in the Second World War; laid a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto monument; honored the memory of the 96 individuals who perished last year in the crash of President Lech Kaczynski’s plane; and vowed to return in 2013 for the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

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He also cited Poland’s transition from despotism to democracy as a model for states in transition in North Africa and the Middle East.

“The only disappointment of the visit,” Harris added, “was the failure to address the U.S. visa waiver program and Poland’s desire for inclusion. AJC has been supporting Poland’s justified request for years, which would allow Polish citizens, alongside citizens of other advanced countries, easier access to the U.S. As a proven friend and ally, whose troops have served alongside our own in Afghanistan and Iraq, Poland deserves to be part of this program. We hope it will happen soon.”

AJC has a long and unique history of engagement with Poland. It actively supported the Solidarity movement in the 1980s and was the first global Jewish organization to engage with Poland after its return to democracy in 1989.

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Moreover, AJC testified before the United States Senate in favor of Poland’s admission to NATO, and partnered with the Warsaw-based Forum for Dialogue Among the Nations to create the first Polish-American Jewish exchange program, which is now in its second decade.

And AJC has maintained close ties with Polish officials, and welcomed the reemergence of the small but vibrant Jewish community in Poland and the robust bilateral ties today between Poland and Israel, said AJC in a statement issued Saturday, May 28.

Photo courtesy: AJC

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