(JTA) – Even among Jews in Poland, few are shocked at this point by the popular figurines of haredi Orthodox Jews counting money that are sold there as good luck charms. Yet even locals are pausing to take stock of the latest development on that controversial theme: scented candles that one retailer advertised as “giving a pleasant warm light during combustion.” Also, “The figure of the Jew is believed to be good for financial success.”
The Jewish candle phenomenon came to light earlier this month on a Facebook group called Życie Żydowskie, meaning “Jewish life.” At least two firms, Beekeeping Łukasiewicz Center and the Łysoń Beekeeping Company, have offered the products online, according to Elżbieta Magenheim, the manager of Życie Żydowskie.
Multiple members of the Facebook group have expressed outrage because the product reminded them of how the Nazis had bodies of Jews burned in crematoria during the Holocaust in occupied Poland.
Both firms removed the products from their online catalog after Jewish.pl, a Polish Jewish news site, published an article Sunday about Magenheim’s discovery.
Łukasiewicz offered two sizes, called “Little Jew” and “big Jews,” of the hand-cast beeswax candle. The figure of the Jew is believed to be good for financial success.
The sale of stereotypical images of Jews as good luck charms started in Poland in the 1960s. Critics believe it is an expression of centuries of antisemitic bias in a country with whose once-great Jewish community. The “Lucky Jew” images are “deeply rooted in negative stereotypes,” Rafal Pankowski, a founder of the Warsaw-based Never Again anti-racism organization, said in 2017. His condemnations helped force the Polish parliament’s souvenir shop to drop its Lucky Jew figurines.
Others dismiss it as an insensitive but ultimately harmless expression of nostalgia, as defined by Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths group that promotes dialogue between Jews and Poles. Daniels said it was similar to how some view cigar store Indians in the United States.
Main Photo: Candles shaped like haredi Jews on sale in Poland. (Jewish.pl/Jan Gebert)