Our meaningful and important trip to Poland got off to a great start. Getting the chance to visit some of the places we have learned about all our lives has been very impactful for all the chanichim.
We landed in Warsaw early in the morning and headed to the Museum of Polish Jewish History, where we learned all about the unique history of Jews in Poland. We then headed to several burial grounds, including the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery and the site of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising memorials. One highlight from the day was participating in a ceremony run by Mia Milewich, Talia Pomp, and Sophia Prieto in front of the Rappaport Memorial for the Warsaw Ghetto.
Our second day was a much more emotionally taxing day. After touring the small village of Tykocin, including the town synagogue, we walked through a forest nearby to a clearing where a mass grave lies. Each chanich received a slip of paper with the name of a Jew from Tykocin who is buried there. It was an eye-opening experience. Afterwards, we traveled all the way to the Treblinka death camp, a camp that was completely destroyed and is memorialized with a display of 17,000 stones with the engraved names of villages where Jews who were brought to the camp came from. The chanichim got a chance to find the names of villages they recognized, we lit a candle and said Mourner’s Kaddish and the Hatikva, and it was meaningful for all involved.
In Lublin on our third day, we got to explore some remnants of Jewish life, including a yeshiva and a synagogue that had existed in the Lublin Ghetto. We brought Jewish life back into the yeshiva, singing “המלאך הגואל” and breathing some Jewish spirit back into the room. Afterwards, we went to the Majdanek concentration camp and did a complete tour. We had a short ceremony after our tour run by David Matz, Zoe Winger and Tania Blanga that helped the chanichim contextualize what we had just seen.
Our fourth day led us to Lezajsk, where we learned about Rebbe Elimelech in his tomb, and celebrated his life afterwards at a small “tisch” with two types of kugel and soup. Our moods changed from joyous to thankful as we trekked through an alleyway to a barn where Jews were hidden by a righteous among the nations family. We learned about how gentiles risked their lives to save Jews, and we got to see the inside of the barn where the families were hidden. Our last stop of the day was to a mass grave where children were killed. We shared a meaningful moment as we heard stories of children in the Holocaust.