We woke up at 6.45 this morning in the beautiful city of Krakow. We had arrived late last night and had only seen the streets in the dark so through out breakfast were all excited to see what the day had in store for us.
After shacharit in the hotel, we all piled on the bus to make our way to a museum which was to be out first stop of the day. While on the bus, Jonty told us that the museum, or more accurately a photo gallery, was established by an English photographer who had taken it upon himself to capture images of the abundant remnants of the Jewish communities all over Poland and preserve what had been so ruthlessly destroyed. But we were not there just to admire those beautiful pictures, our true purpose was to hear the words of one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
Her name was Miroslova and she had grown up in the city of Krakow with her mother and older sister. When she was 13 years old, her family made the decision to take in a young Jewish girl named Miri who had managed to escape the ghetto here in Krakow, a great personal risk to themselves. Despite the constant threat of death if they were caught, Miroslova and her family as well as Miri, all survived the war together and have kept in touch to this day.
As we listened to her tell us her story, we were all struck by the overwhelming morality and courage Miroslova and her family had shown. To have risked one's own life to save the life of a stranger is something so beyond beautiful. As she finished, almost immediately the clapping began. There was not a single person still sitting. It was impossible not to be awed by the deeds of this amazing woman.
After her talk, we made our way on foot to the old Jewish Quarter of Krakow, known as Kazimirz.
We began at Rama's Shule, which was the Shule that the great Rabbi Moses Isserles was the head of. We also toured through the cemetery which was the burial place of many great rabbis as we learnt stories and lessons from each of their lives.
We weaved our way through the old buildings on the cobblestone roads. Despite the cold weather, exploring a town on foot was a welcome change after the long bus rides of the previous days. Everywhere we walked, you could see the reminders of the Jewish heritage of the place. From the faded Hebrew on the walls marking a former Yeshiva to the carved slots where mezuzahs were placed. As we walked, Jonty told us tales and folklore that surrounded the buildings. We passed many remarkable places such as the Alter Shule which is thought to be the oldest Synagogue in Europe and the Yitzak Shule which had its own unique tale behind its establishment.
After visiting all of the significant destinations set out for us, those of us on Bus 1 had one more stop to make on our tour. On one of the roads of the Jewish Quarter stood an apartment block which used to be the home of the great-grandparents of one of our busmates, Leila Freidman. Together we stood in front of the building as Leila told us the story of her family during the war and for a moment we were all struck by yet another reminder of how close the events of the Holocaust were to us and those we care about.
What would our lives have been if things were different?
Where would be?
What language would we speak?
With these questions in our mind we went back to our hotel to get ready for Shabbat which came in incredibly early. At 3.15 we all gathered together and walked back into the Jewish Quarter to the Temple Synagogue, a beautifully preserved Shule which had originally been the birthing place to a more progressive form of Jewish practice.
Our first Shabbat together served as a light that brightened the difficult and emotional week we were having. After a service full of singing and dancing, we had discussion time with our family groups exploring some concepts that we had been and will be dealing and struggling with throughout our trip.
Dinner was then a happy affair with yet again joyous shouting and singing, proclaiming to the world that we are here and unapologetic about it.
We then separated into our Netzach and Lahava groups and played a game of 'Speed Dating' where we all could get to know each other a little bit better.
In the evening there was also an additional optional Tisch and time for everybody to hang out, bringing Day 5 in Poland to a close.