Group 6: Israel Pilgrimage/Poland Seminar (2nd Departure)
Wednesday, July 6th
This morning Group 6 headed to the Archaeological Dig Seminar where they dug to try and find artifacts from the Second Temple period. They then crawled through Bar Kochba’s secret caves, which were used to plan the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE, against the Roman Empire. After lunch the group spent time at the swimming pool! In the afternoon they drove back to Jerusalem, had some free time and after dinner they attended a session with Rabbi Paul Freedman. Tonight they will have separate girls/boys programs with their staff.
Tuesday, July 5th
Group 6 spent the first part of their day learning about the Second Temple period in Jerusalem. They began at the Israel Museum where they saw a large and intricate model of Jerusalem from the period before 70 C.E. They drove to the Old City, walked through the Roman Cardo in the Jewish Quarter, and toured the Herodian Mansion – the remains of a house which once belonged to the high priest in the first century. After lunch they went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, where many of the USYers put in notes of prayers and thoughts. The group continued to Robinson’s Arch where the marketplace next to the Temple stood and where people would be able to buy food and animals during their stay on Pilgrimage Festivals. They concluded the tour of the south wall excavation walking up the original steps leading to the gates of the Second Temple. They returned to the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism, had some free time and in the evening they studied with Jules Gutin, director of USY. After that they enjoyed a group activity together.
Monday, July 4th
The group landed safely in Israel early this morning and was ecstatic to have finally arrived! First, they went to Yemin Moshe which overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem. After a special welcoming ceremony, the group drove to the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism, their home for the next few days. They had a few hours to sleep before lunch, and orientation. In the afternoon the group split up and went on different walking tours of the neighborhood and played some icebreaker games in a nearby park. They had subgroups and spoke about their experience in Poland. After dinner, Group 4 headed out to the pedestrian mall known as Ben Yehudah Street, for shopping, snacking, and hanging out.
Sunday, July 3rd
The group had a fantastic first Shabbat together. Last night they joined thousands in the old Jewish town square to celebrate the annual Jewish festival. This morning they stopped at the Schindler Factory- today a museum which describes Jewish life in Krakow before the war and after the Nazi invasion. From there they visited the ghetto wall in Krakow. The group later traveled five hours back to Warsaw. They visited the “Heroism Trail” which highlights the Rapport Monument, a tribute to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Mila 18, the main bunker of the uprising fighters. They had a session about their trip in Poland and after final dinner in Poland the group headed for the airport. They are very excited to be flying to Israel tonight!!!
Friday, July 1st
The group traveled to the town of Auschwitzem for Shacharit at the Jewish Center. They visited at Auschwitz concentration camp, where they began the tour by walking under the famous sign, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” “Work Will Make You Free.” They entered several buildings and learned about what went on in the everyday life of the camp’s victims. Then they drove to Birkenau death camp, where they began by walking through the infamous guard tower. They went inside barracks, stood at the very place where Joseph Mengele chose which individuals would live and which would die, and saw the former crematoria that were destroyed at the end of the war. At the end of the tour the group gathered for a memorial ceremony. They headed back to Krakow, were they will spend Shabbat. The group is excited to spend its first Shabbat together, singing, learning Pikei Avot and relaxing. Shabbat Shalom!
Thursday, June 30th
Today the group drove from Lublin to Krakow. Their first stop was the town Tarnow. Before World War II, about 25,000 Jews lived in Tarnow. By the end of the war, the overwhelming majority of Tarnow Jews had been murdered by the Nazis. Although some 700 Jews returned to the city after liberation, virtually all of them soon left to escape local anti-Semitism. The group visited the location of the old Synagogue and stopped at a forest just outside of Tarnow, where they focused on the loss of children in the Holocaust. They then continued to Krakow and visited Plashow – Krakow’s Forced Labour Camp. They toured the Jewish Quarter in Kazimisz, the Rama shul and Issac shul. The Rama shul is named for Moshe Isserles who wrote the Mapa, the Ashkanazic gloss to the Shulchan Aruch (a famous code of Jewish law). They later headed back to the hotel for a social program and met in subgroups.
Wednesday, June 29th
The group left Warsaw this morning and drove to Lublin, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community. They visited Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin, which was recently renovated. They davend shacharit and learned in havruta groups, studying 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. The group played some ice- breaker games to get to know more about each other. Group 6 then 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. They spent some time reflecting and then led a memorial ceremony were they sang Hatikva and held up the Israeli flags with a lot of pride. The group headed back to the hotel for a quiet evening, dinner, subgroups and free time after a long and emotional day.