Day 5 - Krakow and Shabbat
On Friday the 25th of November, we visited the old Jewish town in Krakow, and got an insight into the density and numbers of the former Jewish community of Krakow. Walking through the streets, we looked at various religious sights of interest, and the tour gave us an insightful look into the way that European Jews lived. It was made clear to us that the Jewish community had a prominent presence in Krakow prior to the war, with beautiful shuls being seen on every street.
This community is not however, what it used to be. The effects of the Holocaust are evident, and sadly, most of these sights are only used by tourist groups rather than residents. We were told various stories about the characters buried in the Jewish cemetery, such as The Rama and Tosefot Yom Tov, as well as its overall history. We even saw a location in which Steven Spielberg's acclaimed holocaust film 'Schindler's List' was filmed, and discussed the interesting way in which Oskar Schindler assisted in saving so many Jewish lives.
Afterward, we spent a few hours preparing for Shabbat, and walked to the Krakow Temple Synagogue. The size and glorious design of the Synagogue was a wonder to behold, with the Aron Hakodesh being intricately designed from marble. As we prepared to daven Kabbalat Shabbat, we encountered other Jewish groups from Israel inside the Synagogue, and shared a special and incredibly uplifting Shabbat service together. Hand in hand, we danced to the same tunes and songs that were sung here so many years ago, and united, we brought Shabbat back to Krakow. There was something special about spending this holy time with complete strangers and foreigners, and making an instant connection, one that Jews all over the world seem to share.
The Friday Night Shabbat experience was uplifting, exhilarating and of course, tasty. The "ice-breaker" game after dinner was thoroughly enjoyable, whereby we were able to spend time with new people and definitely made me more comfortable with everyone on the trip. So far, this has been my stand out experience, and has made an immense impression on me and my connection to the Jewish people.