New York City O.K.’s “Pope John Paul II Way”
Maspeth (Queens), N.Y. .. Rev. Witold Mroziewski, pastor of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Maspeth (center in photo on right), is presented with one of the pens New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg used to sign legislation renaming the street in front of the church as “Pope John Paul II Way.” Mayor Bloomberg approved the law just days before his term of office ended on December 31st. Presenting the official pen are Jeff Gottlieb, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Queens (left) and Chet Szarejko, vice president of the Downstate New York Division of the Polish American Congress and chairman of that organization’s Political Activities Committee.
Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Szarejko also are co-chairs of the Polish-Jewish Dialogue Committee which initiated the proposal to change the street name. As longtime friends whose participation in New York politics offered them repeated opportunities to work jointly on various projects, their impressive record of personal achievement convinced them to direct their future attention on Polish-Jewish relations.
With encouragement from Rabbi Moses Birnbaum of the Kew Gardens Hills Jewish Center, they formed the dialogue group five years ago and have already made important strides in promoting positive Polish-Jewish understanding and respect.
Rabbi Birnbaum and Monsignor Peter Zendzian act as spiritual advisors to the committee. Monsignor Zendzian preceded Rev. Mroziewski as pastor of Holy Cross until he transferred to St. Mathias Church in Ridgewood last June to act as pastor there.
A special ceremony placing the sign for “Pope John Paul II Way” at the corner of 56th Road and 61st Street will be held sometime in early Spring. A firm date has not yet been set but it will be prior to April 27th, the day Pope John Paul II is scheduled to be canonized as a saint at the Vatican. The exact date of the street naming ceremony will be announced when it is finally set.
Before it was signed by Mayor Bloomberg, the bill proposing the name change at 56th Road was introduced in the City Council of New York by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley whose district encompasses Holy Cross Church. It also received the support of the local Community Board #5, headed by Mr. Gary Giordano.
The Polish-Jewish Dialogue Committee has also instituted its annual “Jan Karski Award” in memory of Jan Karski, a Polish Catholic member of Poland’s Home Army (Armia Krajowa), the largest and most effective anti-Nazi and anti-Communist underground resistance in all of German-occupied Europe during World War II.
Frequently referred to as “the man who tried to stop the Holocaust,” Poland’s government-in-exile ordered Mr. Karski to leave wartime Poland and travel to London and Washington and warn the Allies that Hitler had begun the Holocaust in occupied Poland. His trip to the Allies was a tragic one because his warnings were ignored.
The Polish-Jewish Dialogue Committee made its first “Jan Karski Award” in April, 2013 to the former Commissioner of Parks of the City of New York, Adrian Benepe. His grandfather was Antoni Wojcicki, a member of Poland’s government-in-exile during World War II.
– Polish American Congress – Downstate NY Division