web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Poland: Desolation And Devastation


As an educator, I was always intrigued with the trip on which my high school students would embark in their junior or senior year. The “March of the Living” allows a student to experience in a small way the immense tragedy our people endured during the Holocaust.

Students travel from Warsaw to Lublin to Auschwitz, visiting the concentration camps of Treblinka, Maidanek and Auschwitz/Birkenau; the itinerary may also include the Belzec death camp. By the time the trip is concluded they have a newfound knowledge of – and an emotional connection to – the unspeakable evil that befell our people.

My father, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Weiss, though not a survivor of the camps, lived in his formative years in Ushpizin (which later became Auschwitz) and returned to Poland several times after the war. He wrote an inspirational book describing his travels titled From Oswiecim to Auschwitz. Often, as a columnist for The Jewish Press, he would quote from his book when relating the history of Polish Jewry.

It was against this backdrop that members of my family toyed with the idea of arranging a trip to Poland accompanied by my father, who would narrate the history of his birthplace and share with us the great tragedy of Polish Jewry.

At first the trip was only a dream, but the more we spoke about it, the more determined we were to see it through, especially when my father said he would accompany us. On Saturday evening June 23, ten members of my family residing in Israel and the United States joined together to begin a trip that would become an experience of a lifetime.

The ten members of the group spanned four generations as children (me), grandchildren (my sons Yitzie, Ari, Akiva and Shimmy and my niece, Dena Levy), and great-granddaughter Ariella Levy converged on the city of Warsaw.

We were fortunate to have with us as guides my father, who presented his personal experiences from his youth, and my son-in-law, Rabbi Levi Cooper, who has led thousands of students through Poland and was able to convey to us the richness of pre-war Polish Jewry.

Before visiting a town, we would read from my father’s book and receive a beautiful background of the Jewish presence of that particular city before the war.

Warsaw before the war had 360,000 Jews with hundreds of shuls. My father writes: “Once a bustling, throbbing city, without its Jews Warsaw today seems gray and lifeless. Streams of people walk along the avenues, in and out of shops…. But where are the Jews?”

Today there is only one shul in Warsaw. There is no daily minyan. A community that was once the center of Jewish existence, utterly destroyed.

In Lublin we visited the site of Reb Meir Shapiro’s famous Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin. There are attempts being made to refurbish it and use it for various Jewish programs, but there are few Jews to be found. A once-thriving yeshiva, led by the man who introduced the Daf Yomi, now sits desolate.

In many of the cities we visited we witnessed the deteriorated condition of Jewish cemeteries, with head stones strewn in every direction and grass and weeds growing everywhere.

We visited many of the former concentration camps, and towns such as Bobov and Vielitchka. In Bobov, once the center of the Bobover chassidic movement, we went to the old shul there. As a young boy I often would hum the melodies of Bobov, and when our group sat at the table in that shul and began singing those beautiful songs, I closed my eyes and felt as though the rebbe and all his chassidim were singing with us.

Perhaps the most meaningful part of the trip was our visit to the city of Ushpizin, the town where my father grew up. He showed us his old street and the house he’d lived in. When he saw it, he gasped. Most of it was demolished. His eyes lit up as he showed us the park he played in as a youngster and tried to describe to us his beautiful town.

My father writes in his book:

 

It was in Oswiecim that I spent my youth. In those days, it was a town bursting with Jewish life and activities. I was six months old when my family moved to Oswiecim. This is where I grew up, studied at Cheder and at Yeshivot. This is where I became involved in the religious Zionist movement as a member of the Hashomer Hadati youth group. When I came to the United States in my mid teens with my parents, we left behind one of my brothers, and some of my sisters, many dear friends, neighbors, and relatives. The Jews of Oswiecim comprised a close-knit community, almost like a large family.

About the Author: Rabbi Mordechai Weiss is principal of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. Any comments can be e-mailed to him at Ravmordechai@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Poland: Desolation And Devastation”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israel's Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon, visiting the family of  IDF Golani Brigade soldier St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul in the northern village of Poria on August 10, 2014. Shaul was killed by Hamas in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
State Department Continues Grudge Match Against Ya’alon
Latest Indepth Stories
Lewis-102414-Nachal-Hareidi

I couldn’t see why I was different from Israeli boys my age. I too wanted to defend our country.

Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

More Articles from Rabbi Mordechai Weiss

When the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, successfully escaping the clutches of the Egyptians, Moses gathered the Israelites together and they sang the famous “Az Yashir.” Miriam, Moses’s sister, also assembled the women as they danced with tambourines and sang “shiru lahashem ki gao gaa sus vrochbo rama bayam” – let us sing to Hashem for he is great, horse and chariot he drowned in the sea.”

I have always been disturbed by the fact that while millions upon millions of dollars are poured into the construction and programs of synagogues, the support received by our yeshivas and day schools is so meager in comparison.

As an educator, I was always intrigued with the trip on which my high school students would embark in their junior or senior year. The “March of the Living” allows a student to experience in a small way the immense tragedy our people endured during the Holocaust.

The first reference to Mount Sinai in the Torah occurs when our teacher Moses witnessed a strange phenomenon there. As he was shepherding his sheep he glanced up at the mountain and saw a thorn bush that was burning without being consumed by the fire.

Diversity in Judaism is common in our history and liturgy. One can visit many synagogues and observe that the order of davening and the text of siddur vary from shul to shul. When I’m in Israel I often attend the services in a Sephardi shul where the prayers and the sequence of taking the Torah from the ark and replacing it are vastly different from what I’m accustomed to.

Herzl was dead within a year, but his prophetic vision established him as the Father of modern Zionism.

Though the worship of God and our underlying relationship with Him are implicit in this text, the stress is on our relationship with people.

When I study of the experiences of King David or the challenges of our gedolim when they were young, I gain more respect and admiration for them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/poland-desolation-and-devastation/2007/08/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: