November 25, 2013
After a long and arduous week of touring Poland, complete with the emotional lows and highs that accompany the trip, our IST group at last arrived at the culmination of the week- Shabbat. As this Shabbat was the first of six and the sole one which we experienced outside of Israel, the day carried with it much apprehension and excitement.
Following a hurried forty-five minutes to dress and prepare, we opened our Shabbat experience with a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Kapo shule, where long lost cousins were reunited and the flame of Judaism in Kracov was reignited, as we danced and prayed with the members of the Polish Jewish community. Proceeding the service, our group ate the traditional Friday night meal at Kosher Delight, our staple caterer during our stay in Poland, sparking jokes of “Kosher delight, only ten zloty for a kebab,” and other such witty remarks in response to the food’s mediocre taste. An inspiring tisch topped off the might’s proceedings as our voices melded into a single strong melody, despite the fact that half our group was falling asleep. The trek back to the Hilton Garden Inn provided a refreshing awakening for those with eyes half closed, and the athletic amongst us even attempted a run back to the hotel. An early night, and a sleep in provided a much- needed respite to our weary bones after a week of early mornings and late nights.
With a 9:00am wake up, we ventured out for another day of shule, after several recountings of the group’s numbers, and arrived at the shule with only ten minutes until the conclusion of Musaf. A short Kiddush, which featured the infamous week old Kosher Delight cake, and endless bottles of Coca Cola, preceded a game of Speed Dating which included all ninety of the IST participants, and allowed us to get to know each other a little better. During lunch we were given the privilege to listen to Rabbi Bromel, the leader of the Jewish community in Kagimesh, Kracow in Poland, speak to us about the importance of continuing the Jewish life in Ooland which was epitomized by his work with the JCC (Jewish Community Centre). After lunch, David and Miriam took us on a tour of the Old City of Kracow, in which we visited the Galicia Jewish Museum, and pondered over the museum’s correctness in portraying the Jewish religion as a dead entity to be marveled at from behind glass windows.
Our Shabbat concluded with an awe- inspiring Havdallah service at the JCC, and a quick ruach session to farewell the Sabbath bride. Dinner, our final meal at Kosher Delight which provoked sighs of relief all round, and the amazing opportunity to hear from a Polish woman who was a Righteous Amongst the Nations, concluded the formal proceedings of our Saturday. Overall, our first Shabbat was an interesting experience in a foreign and largely non Jewish country, and one which I doubt that any of us on IST 2013 will ever forget.