An open letter to the Director of the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
I am the head of the World Bnei Akiva MTA programme, whose visit to Auschwitz on Friday 1st August has garnered much publicity throughout Israel and the Jewish world due to the detention and fining of its tour guide, Rabbi Rafi Ostroff.
You followed a policy of constantly responding to posts about this incident, however the result has been that your story has been inconsistent. In some - but not all - cases, you have apologised for making inaccurate claims about our group and mixing it up with other groups on site. In addition to this, you claim to have video footage of the event, and to have received "numerous" complaints by visitors and guides. But you haven't specified how many, nor have you released the video.
You have also tried to claim that ours was an isolated incident, yet I know of two other groups who also faced similar problems with security personnel in Auschwitz over the last few weeks. Given that singing by Jewish groups in Auschwitz is an established practice for many years, I find it hard to believe that the general demeanour of Jewish groups has changed recently. Indeed, this was my third visit to Auschwitz as part of a group of young Jewish people and each time we have sung at the same locations and conducted ourselves in the same way without any issue with the site management. As a principle, singing slow and sad songs is how Jewish people commemorate and memorialise the Holocaust, and remember their loved ones at sites where their family members perished, especially Auschwitz.
As a result of all this, I request that you personally write a letter to the 18-year-old members of the group and apologise for spreading mistruths about their conduct, in addition to apologising to Rabbi Ostroff for the incident itself. I also request that rather than punishing the participants by taking away 1000 zloties from their group's budget, you return the money, which I will put towards more Holocaust education for the programme. Finally, I ask that you initiate a training programme for your staff in order for them to understand the sensitivities required with regard to Jewish and Israeli groups.