Day 3: Lublin and Majdanek - November 14

Sitting on the bus after spending a most harrowing afternoon at Majdanek concentration camp, we found ourselves reflecting on the first few days we have spent in Poland with your children. Although we are so different, we had exactly the same reactions today! We felt compelled to share with you the respect we have developed for the way the students have conducted themselves.

It is hard to comprehend that 72 hours ago we were enjoying our breakfasts in Bondi. Now we have immersed ourselves in the tragic history of our people. Rabbi Benji and Renana have put together a remarkable program. We have examined our cultural heritage in Eastern Europe from shtetl life in Tykochin to the Yiddish theatre in Warsaw and Chachmeh Lublin Yeshiva. As we wandered through the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw we felt for the first time the age and size of the community forever lost to us.

We stood in awe late on the first day as Ben honoured his family lost in the Holocaust at the Rappaport memorial. It was here for the first time that we became aware of the demands we are making of these young adults and the tremendous emotional maturity that we have expected of them.

We have been with them in the Forest where we paid respect to the communities, slaughtered by the Nazis. Here the children came together as a group as we said Kaddish and remembered the souls lost. Many wept and struggled to try and comprehend the nature of evil. On the same afternoon in Treblinka, we listened to Laine as she eloquently told the story of her family who perished there. In the darkening afternoon we lit candles and stood in silence, surrounded by the stones representing the thousands of our communities lost.

The response of the children to these gut wrenching experiences has been remarkable. At all times they have been respectful, supportive of each other, resilient, considered in their responses, sensitive to their surroundings and deeply moved. It has been an absolute privilege to be in their company and to listen to their thoughts. Even in this short time we have witnessed incredible emotional growth in all of them. We thank you for giving us this opportunity of sharing this profound experience with them.

Evie Apfelbaum & Mandy Meltz

Speech at the Rappaport Memorial - November 13

Day 2: Treblinka and Tykochin - November 14