A final blog…

29 Apr

We are sitting in the airport, awaiting our flight home. The kids have been simply great. They are cooperative and thoughtful, even though they have managed to bruise themselves a lot! We just saw a posting that our flight has been delayed again, and we won’t leave here until 7:30 am… I told the kids to find a spot on the floor and curl up and sleep.
Ack.

Some videos to share

25 Apr

Our Yom HaZikaron video

Now from today’s fun…

25 Apr

Today we woke up and went bike riding. I fell off my bike and now rival Emilie for the most bruises. The route we biked was rather scenic.

After our bike ride we went to a nearby cemetery where Chen, our tour guide’s, best friend is buried. Chen told us about how his friend died at age 20 defending his country. It was very touching and we all put rocks on his grave. Then, we went to lunch.

After lunch, we continued on to a preschool where we did yard work. Brandon and Noah had a very good time removing tree roots with axes. It was really scary to watch. After an hour and half, we had painted their entrance, removed tree branches, mowed the lawn, and removed bushes.

Tonight, after dinner and processing, we are going on a disco boat on the Kineret to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. We will also be going to a street fair in Tiberias. Tomorrow, we are going to Jerusalem to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut there.
written by Joan.

Sophie did not wear enough sunscreen, so she’s pink…

24 Apr

Betsy told me to put on more. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

Today, after waking up at 6:15, the Southern region and the New England region had tefillah together, but we had three options: one, a traditional Orthodox minion at the hostel’s shul, two, a discussion tefillah, or three, the reform one we’ve been doing in the outdoor amphitheater. After a delicious breakfast, we rode back to the Ghetto Fighter’s kibbutz where we heard a second generation testimony. The speaker told us first about her father, a German Jew who went into hiding in the Netherlands as a teenager during the war. After the war, he married a Dutch woman and moved to Israel, where he helped start the kibbutz. Then, she told us about what growing up in the kibbutz was like, and how she gradually learned about her father’s life during the war. Though we were still exhausted, it was extremely interesting.

Afterwords, we drove to Mount Carmel where saw what used to be underground bunkers during World War II and got to climb into them and walk through while enjoying the beautiful view if Haifa and the sea from above. insert from betsy: these bunkers were built during WW2 when the british and the jews of palestine thought they would lose to invading Nazis they intended to create a modern Masada, and suicide to save a retreating guerrilla force. Back to Sophie: After lunch, we went to another kibbutz that, in my opinion, had the most interesting history of the ones we’ve seen so far. The kibbutz was actually founded by Protestant Germans before the rise of Nazism in Europe. They came to Israel for religious reasons. However, they joined the Nazi party! They were taken as prisoners by the Brits and used to trade for a group of Iranian Jews who were held in Bergeb-Belsen! Post-war, when Jews (who were survivors) began moving back to the area, some found it and decided it was a good place to learn how to farm so they could establish their own kibbutz later. It is still a working kibbutz, and we even saw some people planting as we walked through. So it went from being Christian to Nazi to a home for survivors!

Now we’re on our way to a hostel in Afula where we will be staying for two nights. We will have some free time and then we will visit a kibbutz for Yom HaZikaron and hopefully go to sleep very early for our day tomorrow!

20120424-160423.jpg

20120424-160434.jpg

20120424-160446.jpg

20120424-160458.jpg

20120424-160519.jpg

ISRAEL!

24 Apr

So we left Poland at about 12:30 am, and flew the too short flight to Israel. Only too short because we landed at 5 am… Your kids are very tired and cranky/excited. We drove 2 hours to Acco, then on to the ghetto fighters kibbutz for a short learning experience. it was really interesting, but I’m not sure they got much out of it. There were fabulous interactive exhibits. I could have spent hours there.

We left around 1, and drove to Nahariah for a pizur. That means we give them money and some parameters about where they can go, and let them get lunch. Felafel and shwarma for all! Happy kids once again!

Now we’re having a short break for showers and rest dinner is at 6, followed by a light show at Rosh HaNikrah. I’m psyched. Tomorrow is more ghetto fighters, then we move to Afula. Tomorrow night is Yom HaZikaron, where we join a kibbutz as they mourn their soldiers lost in defense of Israel.

Early wake up tomorrow, and a long day. But we are having lots of fun. The mood of the group has changed radically. They are no longer sad, but they’re still thoughtful.

Betsy

Our last day in Poland

24 Apr

Today, after a lovely late wake-up of 7:30, we ate our last breakfast in Poland and bid goodbye to Saul and Dave. We took a short ride to a nearby yeshiva for tefila, some history, and lots of dancing. After, we ate lunch and saw the statue of Janusz Korchak, a man who didn’t want to see the orphans he cared for afraid, so he went to Treblinka with them rather than fleeing the country. We then walked to the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto wall and heard an account of a child smuggler in the ghetto. We saw the memorial to Mordecai Anilewicz, the leader of the Ghetto Fighters. A two hour drive through the country brought us to the ironically lush area that used to be the death camp Treblinka, famous for its use of carbon monoxide rather than zyclon-B. The camp is now filled with stones with the names of communities that had been deported there and art representing where the train tracks and guard towers used to be. Jenna sang beautifully in Yiddish about a girl who died there, and we recited Eli Weisel’s version of Kaddish. Our midnight flight to Israel will bring us full circle; we have followed the path of the Jews from Warsaw, from the yeshiva to the ghetto and finally where they died, but Israel’s ability to continuously harbor Jewish life will allow their memories to live vicariously through us.

It has been an emotional and stressful week, but luckily the weather has gotten progressively better throughout. It’s 21 degrees C and sunny out at the moment, but we are all excited for the superior Israeli weather. In fact, we are all ecstatic about everything Israel–continuing the story of the Jews will be extremely beneficial and interesting for all of us. But mostly we’re looking forward to the food.
Written by Sophie

20120424-092439.jpg

20120422-161944.jpg

20120422-161926.jpg

20120422-161915.jpg

20120422-161856.jpg

20120422-161838.jpg

20120422-161821.jpg

20120422-161755.jpg

Shabbat!

24 Apr

After a long day yesterday everyone was ready for Shabbat. We had a little more time than expected to get ready, it was really nice to have some free time before 11:30 at night. Looking for the room in the hotel that we were having services in we found a nice sign that said “New England Pray”. Daniella, from Rhode Island, led us in a nice Kabbalat Shabbat service. After services we had dinner, which was about as good as the rest of the food we have had so far. After dinner we had an intense ruach session, which was my favorite part of our evening. We then had processing and finally got to go to sleep.

Saturday morning we got to sleep until…drumroll please…7:30! I never thought I would be so excited to get up so early. We davened at an orthodox synagogue and then we went to a restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately we did still had the lovely food we had been eating all week…

After lunch, we went back to the hotel. Some napped and relaxed; some of us went to Old Warsaw.

Old Warsaw was gorgeous, after all the things we have seen this week it was a welcomed change. We saw all the recreated buildings, as well as a group of mediocre break dancers and a jousting match. The best part of Old Warsaw was the perogies and ice cream though. After we went back to the hotel there was still enough time to take a nap for those who wanted to.

After dinner and havdalah we had a chance to speak to three Polish Jews about living in Poland and being Jewish. While there are not many Jews in Poland we learned their encounters with anti-sematism mirrored many of our own. I think many of us learned a lot from our conversation with them. It was a nice way to end our day.
Written by Joan.

Your kids are wonderful. I keep thinking I’m the luckiest community coordinator on this trip! Our group is cooperative and kind. You all raised remarkable children, and I am reaping the benefit of you work. Thank you.

Betsy

20120424-072901.jpg

20120424-082212.jpg

20120422-095902.jpg

20120422-095916.jpg

20120422-095851.jpg

20120422-095834.jpg

Some more photos…

21 Apr

Sadly, it’s hard for me to see these photos here. Please let me know if I haven’t shown your child….

20120421-185246.jpg

20120421-185258.jpg

20120421-185318.jpg

20120421-185333.jpg

20120421-185354.jpg

20120421-185407.jpg

Finally, a post!

21 Apr

DAY ONE:

We arrived in Warsaw, Poland on Monday morning. All of us were pretty exhausted but we picked up our bags and off we were to our first destination, the Lublin Yeshiva. We learned about and read Talmud in the newly restored chapel and Rich gave us a brief history about the Jewish people in Lublin dating back many centuries.

After we concluded our time at the Yeshiva, we left for Majdanek. We pulled up to the camp, which was shockingly close to the town. We walked through the gas chamber, it was very strange to be there in the exact room where so many people had been murdered. In one of the barrack buildings one of our survivors, Willie, told us of his dehumanizing experiences throughout the Holocaust. Willie told us about his 3 and 1/2 month death march from Auschwitz to Flossenberg where he was finally liberated. We ended our day at Majdanek with the Mourners Kaddish in front of the ashes of the 78,000 people who perished there.
We slept the entire way from Majdanek to Zamosc, where we ate our first dinner of the trip and stayed over night.
Written by Lauren Pollack

DAY TWO:

On Tuesday morning we woke up in Zamosc to a big breakfast to get us ready for a busy day. We began by walking around the center of town, where we took lots of pictures by many colorful buildings. In the town, we visited an old synagogue which was destroyed by the Nazis and later used as a a library because of its roof which protected the books.
Outside of the old synagogue, Marlene began to tell the story of her childhood in Zamosc, where she lived until she was five years old. She didn’t remember much but said it was interesting to be back for her first time since her childhood.
From Zamosc, we took a four hour bus ride to Kielce, Willy’s hometown. We were a bit rushed In Kielce because we were running behind schedule but nonetheless, we were able to visit the cemetery for 42 residents who were killed after the war had ended. Willy was emotional as he read the names of his friends off the grave.
Our final stop in Kielce was to the spot where the pogrom broke out. We were separated across a busy street while Rich spoke about the history so it was difficult to understand the full story.
When we finally got to the hotel, it was late but we ended the night with our processing groups. Some groups had very serious conversations, discussing the difficulty of accepting the murder of relatives. My group ended the night on a high note by talking about Willy’s heroic actions during and after the war.
Written by our adopted Marcher, Annie Glasser

DAY THREE

On Wednesday, we began the day in Kazimierz, where we visited the Tempel Synagogue. The synagogue was beautifully decorated; it looks like Central Synagogue in New York City. While the rabbi led us in song, our group spontaneously stood up and started a joyous dance around the synagogue. We then walked down the street to see the cemetery and the adjoining Remuh Synagogue. In the cemetery, we learned about the famous rabbis of Krakow and visited their graves.

After we left the cemetery, we drove to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where we spent the rest of the day. First, we went to Birkenau, where we gathered around the train tracks to listen to the story of our third survivor, Siggy. He told us about his journey, from deportation to liberation to creating a future and a new life with his wife Marlene. He then walked on the train tracks towards the cattle car. When his daughter offered to walk with him, Siggy said, “No, I want to do this alone.” It was a very moving moment, especially as he walked up to the cattle car and touched its handle. After hearing Siggy’s story, we walked through Birkenau. My group spent a lot of time in Canada – an area of the camp where possessions were sorted. We saw things like scissors, forks, buttons, and pots. We then went to Auschwitz and saw other types of confiscated possessions such as shoes, suitcases, brushes, shoe polish, and hair. We tried to focus on one specific object, rather than the whole group of objects, in order to think about the individuals instead of the mass numbers. Many of us were surprised at how vast Birkenau was and how small and normal-looking Auschwitz seemed in comparison.

We ended our day at an opera house in Krakow, where we were lucky enough to be the only March of the Living group to be invited to a special program that honored liberators of concentration camps. We heard from a survivor about the day of his liberation and then from the US Army veteran who was in charge of the liberation of that camp. It was a very interesting experience that we were honored to be a part of.
Written by Caroline

DAY 4

On Thursday we began the day early excited for the march! We came down for morning services, and had a special Holocaust remembrance day ceremony. We then proceeded to a “delicious” breakfast.

The bus was fun as usual, making even the most boring situations entertaining. We first stopped at the square in Krakow and learned about its history and then enjoyed a dance in the center with many M.O.T.L participants. When that was done we hopped back on the bus and drove to Auschwitz and got ready for the walk. We had an even better lunch at this time and I was lucky enough to get an Israeli flag… Thanks Betsy! When we were waiting to begin, we traded pins and hats with the other kids from different regions.

When the march began we all became silent and slowly started to walk. Every couple minutes we had to stop to wait for the traffic of the 11000 people marching today. This was very intense seeing thousands of kids walking together for one cause, to remember and never forget the Holocaust.

Now I am on the bus riding to our next destination, Lodz. An entertaining but annoyingly long bus ride.

“Can’t wait for dinner!”
Written by Brandon

An additional thought from Betsy: if we assume that 1.2 million died at Auschwitz-Birkenau and that we were 8,000 today, then each of us represents 150 people.

Your kids are cooperative, thoughtful and kind. I feel like I have the best bunch here!

20120421-184151.jpg

20120421-184212.jpg

20120421-184227.jpg

20120421-184251.jpg

20120421-184303.jpg

20120421-184419.jpg

20120421-184435.jpg

20120421-184400.jpg

20120421-184317.jpg

20120421-184505.jpg

20120421-184521.jpg

On our way!

11 Apr

on April 15, 10 students from Kulanu will be on our way to Poland and Israel, to bear witness to Jewish history.  Follow us here to see what we’re doing…