Day 6 - Shabbat in Krakow
Shabbat is one of the most uplifting experiences in Judaism and, for the first time, all of us experienced this together in one of the darkest places throughout Jewish history.
After our Friday night dinner, for some of us, our shabbat experience continued early this morning where we went to an old Krakow shul for Shacharit. For others, this experience continued after a well-received 9am wake-up call, followed by a short walk to the shul at 10 o'clock for Mussaf. Part of the service was lead by the Holocaust survivor who many of you may have seen in the IST video shot at Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin.
Following the service many of the children participated in a very inspirational and exhilarating ruach session. Everyone then proceeded to split-up into their family groups for a short insightful talk lead by the family group leaders.
IST then reunited into their bus groups to continue on yesterdays tour of Krakow. After a much-needed lunch including challah and chicken schnitzel, a well-fed and more energetic group of students emerged to continue their trip. This included a visit to the Galacia Museum where the entire group split into two, to hear the story of different righteous gentiles.
My group's gentile told a story of herself, her sister, her mother and a young Jewish girl named Miri. This family of three welcomed Miri into their life and provided her with shelter, food and love, all of which she needed to help her survive the war. Miri survived through the aid of false papers provided by a priest and the ingenuity and creativity of the family which took her in.
This talk really provided us with a window through which we could look at the life of non-Jewish people whose life was at risk during their war. This was a perspective that many of us have never considered despite it being these very people that saved the lives of many of our relatives and brothers.
Following this eye-opening, insightful speech we embarked on an adventure through Jewish Krakow which would culminate in us singing, dancing and completing Havdallah on the site that once was once the Krakow Umschlagplatz. During this walk we made many stops where Yonatan, our tour guide told us stories that managed to bring to life what life would have been like in Krakow during the Holocaust.
One of these stops we made was at one of the very few standing sections of the ghetto wall in Krakow. As we were standing there, belittled by this wall in front of us, we felt the sorrow and pain of our brothers and sisters who had been standing exactly where we were.
Finally, we arrived at the Umschlagplatz which is now marked through the use of a sculpture consisting of an array of scattered steel chairs. It was amongst these chairs where we celebrated our first Havdallah, bringing life and song back into a place which was once the symbol of death for the Jewish people.
We are now back into the hotel, where I find myself writing this blog. We are now going out for dinner which will mark the end of our time in Krakow. Although, tomorrow we are faced by the large emotional obstacle that is Auschwitz.