Group 8: Eastern Europe/Israel Pilgrimage

July 8, 2012

Group 8 spent a wonderful Shabbat in Krakow and made their way to Auschwitz this morning. Upon arrival, they headed to Auschwitz concentration camp and They began their tour by walking under the infamous sign, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” “Work Will Make You Free.” They went into several buildings and learned about what went on in the everyday live of the camp’s victims. Then they went to Birkenau death camp, where they had the opportunity to walk through the famous guard tower featured in almost every book about the camp. They went inside barracks, stood at the very place where the evil Dr. Mengele chose who should live and who should 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. The group then had the privilege of quickly stopping in the small town of Chrzanow where the group leader’s grandma once lived. There they saw the house she lived in prior to the war; it was quite an emotional experience. After, they headed to Warsaw where they had delicious dinner at Rambam restaurant, subgroups and prepared for Haevent at their hotel.

July 6, 2012

Group 8 woke up in Lublin and headed to Krakow where they will spend their second Shabbat together. In Krakow, they toured two old synagogues in the old city: the Temple synagogue and Rema. The Rema shul is named for Moshe Isserles who wrote the Mapa, the Ashkenazic gloss to the Shulchan Aruch.  In the evening they will daven at the Isaac shul and will eat several of their meals at the olive oil restaurant at the Jewish old town. During Shabbat they will participate in a limud and return to the olive oil restaurant to eat seudah shlishit and do havadallah. The group is excited to spend their second Shabbat together; singing, learning, and relaxing. Shabbat Shalom!

July 5, 2012

Group 8 started their day at Majdanek Concentration Camp. One of the most interesting and shocking parts of the camp is that much of the camp is still intact, giving the group a full image of what it looked like when it was operational. They hosted a memorial ceremony and shared their strong emotions. Then they headed to the town of Wlodawa and davened mincha, danced and sang at the great synagogue, which unfortunately is not in use today because no Jews live in the town. After, they headed to Sobibor, a Concentration and Death Camp, at which a successful revolt occurred in 1943; close to 600 prisoners escaped. The group participated in a memorial ceremony there as well. They returned to their hotel in Lublin. In the evening the group ate dinner and met in subgroups and practiced for Haevent!

July 4, 2012

This morning the group took a walking tour through the city of Lodz and had the opportunity to visit various Jewish sites around the town. Then they got on the bus and headed to Lublin, once home to a thriving Jewish community. There they participated in a limud, study session, led by the staff members, at Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin. The group studied ancient rabbinic texts, much like the students of the Yeshiva did in the early twentieth century.  It is in this yeshiva where the great Rabbi Shapira invented the system of learning a page of Talmud a day, Daf Yomi, a system still in use today.

July 3, 2012

Group 8 started their morning with a visit to the Villa of the Wannsee Conference. This was a meeting of senior officials of the Nazi German regime, held outside of Berlin. At this meeting, part of the planning of the Final Solution took place and the Wannsee Protocol was formed. Then they headed to Lodz, Poland where they visited the Jewish cemetery, which is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe with the biggest Jewish tombstone in the world. They also visited the Umshlagplatz, which is the site of deportation, and  the train memorial. In the evening the group ate dinner and met in subgroups to discuss their days. In addition, they formed their Tefillah goals, which is what they would like to achieve over the summer with regards to praying and services, and also worked on Haevent cheers.

July 2, 2012

The group started their day with a walking tour of the past and present Jewish life in Berlin. They visited the Jewish museum and the Oranienburgerstr Synagogue. In 1866, the New Synagogue was inaugurated with over 3000 seats, which served the increasing number of liberal Jews. Today, it hosts the Masorti -Conservative Jewish community of Berlin. Following lunch, they walked by the grave of Moses Mendelssohn, a Jewish philosopher from the 18th century. That area was a Jewish neighborhood prior to the war and today there are signs on the pavement in front of each and every home with the name of the Jewish family that once lived there. In the evening they returned to the hotel for dinner.

June 29, 2012

Group 8 spent their morning in Terezin, a concentration camp located an hour outside of Prague. This camp, unlike the others, was used as a propaganda tool, or “show camp,” where the Nazis would invite members of the Red Cross into the camp to dispel rumors about the extermination camps. One unique element that came out of this camp is the tremendous amount of art produced by children and adults. There is now a museum with lots of children’s drawings, which the group spent a lot of time viewing. They watched a movie about the camp, and saw the synagogue that existed there (another piece of evidence that this camp was different). The group then returned to Prague to prepare for Shabbat. Tonight they will have their own minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat at the hotel followed by dinner and Oneg. Tomorrow they will join the Rabbi Hoffberg from the Masorti (Conservative) community for services at the High Synagogue. The group is thrilled to be spending their first Shabbat together in Prague. They will sing, learn and relax. Shabbat Shalom!

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