Wednesday, June 22nd

This morning Bus D returned to their host synagogue for shacharit and breakfast. The group then hit the road and traveled through upstate NY. Their first stop was at Secret Caverns where they explored the natural underground caves. Next, the wheelniks went to college as they visited Cornell University in Ithaca. At Cornell, the wheelniks and staff talked about opportunities for Jewish experiences when they eventually get to campus. Then it was back on the bus for the ride to Syracuse. When they arrived they visited the local JCC which hosted them to a BBQ dinner and a pool party. The group finished the day by meeting up with their host families in Syracuse.

Wednesday, June 22nd

The group left Warsaw this morning and drove to Lublin, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community. The group visited Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin, which was recently renovated. They learned in havruta groups, where they studied rabbinic texts, much like students of the yeshiva did at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was in this yeshiva where Rabbi Shapira invented the system of learning a page of Talmud a day, Daf Yomi, a system still used today. After lunch they headed to Majdanek Concentration Camp, just outside the city of Lublin. One of the most interesting and shocking parts of the camp is that much of it is still intact, thereby giving the group a full image of what it looked like when it was operational. The group was extremely moved by the barrack full of shoes, and walked through quietly trying to imagine the people who filled them. The group spent some time reflecting and led a memorial service. The group headed back to the hotel for dinner, subgroups and a quiet evening.

 

Tuesday, June 21st

On Tuesday, Bus D set off on their six and a half week journey. In the morning the group woke up early and got together for their first Shacharit of the summer. The wheelniks then boarded the bus for the ride to Boston. On the way, the group talked about the Jewish value of Hachnasat Orchim, welcoming in guests, which they would be the beneficiaries of later in the evening. When they arrived in Boston the group took a tour of historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox! Later, the group had free time to explore the market area of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. In the evening Bud D headed to a local synagogue where they had a delicious dinner and had a fun evening program about their goals for the summer. Finally, the group ended this busy day by meeting up with families from the synagogue who are hosting them for the evening.

 

Tuesday, June 21st

After breakfast and Shacharit the group packed their lunch and headed to Tikochin, located four hours north of Warsaw and not far from Bialystok. In Tikochin, the group saw the town’s beautiful synagogue. Before the Holocaust, Tikochin was a thriving Jewish Shtetl. They gathered in the old synagogue for an energetic dancing and learned a new nigun (melody). After lunch they traveled to the Lupochova forest just outside of town where the Nazis murdered the entire Jewish population of Tikochin. At the site they held a memorial ceremony. This afternoon the group drove to Treblinka death camp. Not much remains of the camp but there is a massive memorial which consists of thousands of stones with the names of towns whose populations were destroyed. They davened Mincha in Treblinka and then headed back to Warsaw. After dinner in Warsaw, Group 4 met in their subgroups.

 

Monday, June 20th

Today was orientation day for the Bus D Wheelniks! After everyone arrived, the group played ice-breaker games in order to get to know their new friends. Next the group loaded the bus with supplies and snacks that they will need throughout the summer. Afterwards, the group had a delicious dinner with cupcakes for desert. Bus D finished the day with some free time before going to bed. The group is very excited to get the summer started!

 

Monday, June 20th

Group 4 landed safely in Warsaw this morning. They met their Israeli staff and tour guide Mark, loaded the bus, and headed for the Genscher Cemetery. They visited the area that used to be the Jewish ghetto and saw the last remaining wall. They then davened mincha at the Nozyk synagogue, from there they went to look at the site of the Korchak Orphanage.  Tonight the group ate dinner at a restaurant. Later they met in subgroups. These small groups will meet each night in Poland & in Israel, as a way to debrief about the day and so that everyone has the opportunity to talk about their experiences in more intimate groups. They then headed to the Novotel hotel. Though tired, the members of Group 4 are excited for the summer ahead.

Shelach Lecha

By Max Bartell, 2011 USY Religion/Education International General Board

Regardless of whether or not he was Jewish, Theodore Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seus) always seems to have something to say about the weekly Parsha. In my interview with him, Seuss had this to say when asked his opinion of the heroic actions of the spies Hoshea (later Joshua) and Caleb after returning from scouting out the land. “In the case of Joshua and Caleb, the case is simple, they should be who they are and say what they feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

For those of you who actually think I interviewed Dr. Seuss, I’m sorry to say that in fact, I did not. However, this quote does have a lot to do with this week’s Parsha, Parshat Shelach Lecha. This Parsha is a prime example of people standing up and doing what is right, even though the results could be potentially harmful. It is in Parshat Shelach Lecha that God tells Moshe to send out 12 spies (one from each tribe) to scout out the land and come back with (hopefully positive) reports. However, upon returning to the rest of the Israelites, ten of the spies begin to spread how awful the land was, and how the Israelites had absolutely no chance of conquering it. However, Joshua and Caleb took a different approach, instead telling the people that the land can easily be conquered. However, after already having been riled up by the other ten spies, the people don’t exactly want to listen to Joshua and Caleb. They don’t want to hear what the two men to say so much, that they even threaten the lives of both spies. However, Joshua and Caleb still stand up for what the believe is right and share their positive views with the rest of the Israelites. Overall, it was important to both men that they leave a legacy of piety and respect for Moses and God.

It is only fitting that this week, my grandmother is doing something else to contribute to her legacy this Shabbat. My grandmother, who worked at Brookdale Hospital for fifty years, and along with my grandfather raised my father and my uncle, will complete a two year adult Bat Mitzvah class at my shul. My grandmother, Bubbe, who came to every single one of my shows in elementary school, cried at my birth, and partied for the whole night after my Bar Mitzvah, will be called to the Torah, not looking a day over twenty. My grandmother, the daughter of poor European immigrants will now share one more thing with her grandchildren, three of whom have already been called to the Torah. My grandmother, who has always led by example, story, and the occasional Jewish guilt, will do the same thing that Joshua and Caleb accomplished in speaking their opinions to the Israelites. In reading from the Torah, my grandmother will follow in the footsteps of Joshua and Caleb, and truly tell the rest of the Jewish people that in fact, the land is good to settle, and that we have nothing to fear.

The idea of doing what’s right no matter what holds true throughout the school year, but especially now, during the time when most schools are having finals. If the opportunity to get an answer from a friend or give an answer during a test arises, we should be strong enough to do the right thing. The time to help each other with answers is before the test, in study sessions or groups, not during the test itself. With that I will bid you adieu for the summer, keep an eye open for the next great Rel/Ed IGB product!

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