Day 6 - Lehava - Mia Sher
Our first Shabbat in Poland was one which I think none of us will ever forget. We started our Shabbat morning service in the Issac Shule - there were over 400 Jews praying together.
We then moved to the Shule from Friday night, the Temple Shule. We arrived at the Shule to find a group of 130 young Jews, like ourselves, travelling together from Israel, Canada and Latin - America.
The young international Jews were not religious but that did not matter. They were not having a Shabbat service, but rather they were sitting in the Shule in their own programs. When we started our service, instead of continuing their own program, they joined us. Our differences didn’t didn’t matter because we all had one thing in common... we are all Jews. Where we came from was irrelevant, we all knew the same prayers and came together to sing and pray as one - Am Yisrael Chai.
We continued our service and at the conclusion we were joined in song and dance by the 130 other students. The symbolism of singing and dancing with over 300 Jews in a Shule in Poland was something that I will never forget. It showed us that no matter what hardships our people faced, in that same country over 70 years ago, we will always survive and remain a strong nation.
Before we made our separate ways from the 130 students we all stood together and sang Hatikvah in unity. It showed how no matter where you were from, Judaism and our love for Israel will always unite us.
We continued back to the Issac Shule for our mincha service and then made our way to Shabbat lunch.
After lunch we had two ted talks from Rabbi Lewin and Robert Goot. They both addressed extremely important topics that made us both reflect on our experiences and think in new ways.
Rabbi Lewin spoke to us about Jewish continuity and how thousands of Jews have never given up their Judaism and even died for it. He gave us examples of statistics about inter-marriage and the prevalence of it in our generation. He posed the question - “given the option to die or relinquish your Judaism, what would you do?” Many were faced with this decision in the Holocaust. He ultimately left us with a powerful message regarding our Jewishness; it is not for us to question would we die for it, but rather, what are we going to do to live for it.
Robert spoke to us about how privileged we are to be in Poland, experiencing and learning about the hardships our ancestors endured in the Holocaust. He told us about when Moriah was deciding to add the Poland aspect to IST and the various debates surrounding it. He told us about how during the debates, many didn’t want to add the week in Poland as they didn’t want to support Poland as a country after what they had done to our people. Robert explained that it was important that we came to Poland as we needed to learn about the unforgivable history of our people.
After lunch we had a short walking tour around the Krakow Ghetto. We walked past the hospital and kindergarten where Jews were killed during the liquidation of the ghetto.
We then made our way to a large square in the ghetto where we had Havdalah. This square was where the Nazis would round up the Jews for various different reasons. This happened during one of the hardest times of our people and now over 70 years later we all stood singing and praying as a united Jewish nation and year group.
We then made our way back to the hotel for free time before dinner. We had dinner with a different bus from the other side. It was really nice to spend time with them.
Our first Shabbat of IST was one of my most memorable Shabbatot. We had a roller coaster of day and made memories that I don’t think anyone will ever forget.