Saturday, March 31st, 2012...6:49 pm
Our First Day – Exploring Jewish Warsaw
Czese (hello) from Poland!
Unbelievably, we are winding down only our first day here in Warsaw, though it feels like much longer. We began our first of many busy days with a quick lunch and and a tour of Jewish Warsaw, where the Warsaw ghetto used to stand, before being entirely destroyed by the Germans at the end of World War II. We visited two monuments, both beautifully built and incredibly powerful. One, Umschtagplatz, was constructed at the site of the train station where thousands were deported for Treblinka, and lists only the first names of thirty Jews who perished in the Shoah, to represent the millions. We also visited the memorial outside the soon to open Museum of the History of Polish Jews, dedicated to those who fought in the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the Zionist Jews, ever marching south to Jerusalem.
After a brief but much appreciated rest, we all cleaned up quite well, if we do say so ourselves, and traveled to Chawura and Etz Chaim (a local synagogue) to welcome Shabbat with the Progressive Community Group. Going to the service was a very interesting experience. At first we were nervous about the extreme language barrier, but once we began singing Hebrew chants, the entire congregation came together. After services concluded, we sang kiddush and enjoyed a lovely cultural dinner. Boy, was the dinner different! Our favorite part about tonight was learning that Rabbi Stas Woyciechowicz is the first Reform Rabbi in Poland!
As we sit now back at the hotel all we can think about is – what a day! Poland has so much to offer but the group is only more eager to explore this country with such a diverse history. Tomorrow we celebrate Shabbat and tour more of Warsaw. We’ll be sure to grab souvenirs and have plenty of stories. Even better we finally join the Madrachim for dinner and havdalah – cant wait!!
– Hannah B., Casey R., and Aviva S.
YOPO – You Only Poland Once