web analytics
December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



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
Eleven people were injured by a motorist who plowed into a crowd in southern France. The driver yelled "Allahu Akbar" as he attacked. Dec. 21, 2014
French Driver Shouting “Allahu Akhbar” Plows into Crowd
Latest Indepth Stories
Knesset and Menorah

Israel projects global material illumination not always the light of “morality” meant by the Navi

President Shimon Peres receives the Congrssional Gold Medal.

“Mr. Prime Minister, declare a unilateral ceasefire! Remember, Blessed is the peacemaker!”

KidSport-Everybody-Is-A-Winner1

“D-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n!”

This masked "soldier" carrying a machine-gun is not part of a terrorist organization, according to the European Court of Justice.

Hamas is continuing to prepare its next war against Israel instead of improving conditions in Gaza

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

More Articles from Rabbi Mordechai Weiss
The bus stop where Dalia Lemkus was killed.

Two of these attacks occurred close to Allon Shvut, and somehow I feel responsible.

We recognize that we are only a speck in this great world and only a small impression in the unfolding of time. As an educator, I have always believed that teachers should realize this as well.

Schools should realize that a child’s life is composed of multifaceted experiences, and schoolwork and homework are only one small part of the equation.

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.

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: