June 26-28, 2015
After this deeply emotional experience, we spent time in the Jewish Quarter in Kraków, where we got had free time in the Market Square. We went souvenir shopping, ate delicious ice cream, and had a lot of fun together. Our final stop for the day was at the hotel in Kraków where we brought in our first Shabbat together as a group!
We woke up bright and early on Saturday, ready to go and pray at Tempel Synagogue in Kraków. Because of an upcoming Jewish music festival in the city, many different cantors stopped by and joined us to pray at the synagogue, which made for a very musical and lively service. The Orthodox services were a different experience for us but we managed to follow along with the rest of the congregation.
After lunch at the JCC we listened to the rabbi as he told us all about the flourishing Jewish community in Poland, a powerful reinforcement that Jewish life could thrive in this area after the horrors of the Holocaust. Shabbat ended with a chorus of “Shavua Tovs,” hugs, and an early bed time so we could rest up for what was going to be an emotional Sunday.
We woke up very early the next morning and got ready to tour concentration camps in Auschwitz and Warsaw. Accompanied by dark clouds and thunderstorms, we entered the place that many of us had heard about since our early days in Hebrew school. However; no amount of schooling could prepare us for the range of emotions we felt. Everything from sadness to anger to disbelief to pure shock at what we saw. Rooms full of personal belongings, shoes and even human hair brought us to tears. It really helped to be together as a group during such an emotional time, and it seemed like each step we took brought us closer together. We walked arm-in-arm, some of us with Israeli flags on our backs, reminding ourselves to not take our connection to Judaism for granted. We ended our day with some personal journal writing, as well as discussion in our subgroups to talk about the day.Posted on June 29, 2015
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