Before beginning the more somber and emotionally challenging portion of the Journey, JFI 2 spent a full day in New York City, including a ferry ride (past the Statue of Liberty) to Ellis Island and the immigrant museum there, as well as a tour of the lower east side. They then proceeded to JFK airport and got through security at the Polish airlines without incident.
The group arrived on time in Poland and were met by the Journey sub-committee Co-Chair, Yehuda Katz, along with security personnel and guides. They began their visit with a tour of the Lodz ghetto where they learned about the early selection process used to determine who was sent to the camps. The contrast between the warm, sunny day and this dark lesson was striking to everyone. A discussion ensued.
Dinner was at the Jewish Community Center in Lodz and both Journey 2 Co-chair Susie Rothenberg and Federation staff member Josh Boress agreed that the food wasn’t too bad – an opinion that may or may not have been shared by all.
The group then proceeded to Krakow.
On Friday, they toured the old Jewish Quarter of Krakow and a cemetery where they had the opportunity to view the grave of the RAMA, a nickname for Rabbi Moshe Isserles, a famous Talmudist of the 16th century who wrote the Ashkenazic commentary to the Shulkhan Arukh - the standard Jewish law code of today. Sheryl, the group's guide in Poland, shared Hassidic tales of Krakow.
A trip to the Jewish Museum followed, as well as a stop at “the Temple," the first reform synagogue established in Poland in the 19th century. The group also visited the ghetto where Oskar Schindler gathered the Jews he employed and eventually saved, and then the Plashow labor camp, which today is a large park devoid of buildings or other reminders of the tragedy that unfolded there. They learned about the great Holocaust scholar Primo Levi, who reflected on the Nazi mantra that no one would be left to know who the Jews were or that they ever existed - ultimately proven wrong. The group went on to tour Schindler's factory as well as the salt mines, where laborers were forced to work, which remain intact today.
Shabbat dinner is just ahead as is welcoming the Sabbath at the synagogue in Krakow. Tomorrow will bring a walking tour of the Royal Square and some time to view the local sights.