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Friday, April 4, 2014

Heritage Trip to Poland 2014/5774: Day 3

Yesterday, after minyan and breakfast, we walked to Zamosc Sephardic Synagogue. Next we drove to Belzec and started walking along the train tracks that led to the death camp there. After walking about 1 kilometer along the tracks, we stopped outside the camp. There we met Rebbetzin Wagner who brought the place to life by sharing her story with us. Rebbetzin Wagner was placed on the train leading to this camp and jumped off the train to save her life. Everybody else on the train was led straight to their deaths in this camp, including her mother. At this point, perhaps the most inspirational part of the trip thus far, we followed Rebbetzin Wagner through the camp along with her daughter and grandchildren. She is a single person, who was supposed to be killed at that site, but has brought over 70 offspring into the world. As we saw the names of those who perished, we all announced our Jewish names and how we got them. I, Yitzhak, am named after my paternal grandfather. As we left the camp and read the names of the Jewish people who fell victim to the camp, the group's mood was matched by grey skies and a light rain. Our next stop was the grave of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanov which was followed by Minha and rikkudim in a nearby abandoned synagogue in order to bring back the Jewish spirit which once flourished there.
From there we traveled to Zbilatovska Gora. Without knowing what to expect we walked into the forest where we saw a small garden gated off with some toys scattered on the ground. It was at this location that thousands of children were brought and killed ruthlessly. We gathered around the gate and sang a prayer in the form of song. A personal story was shared which strengthened our connection to the place even more. We placed play dough sculptures, which we made before with other toys, on the grave in order to pay tribute to the children at rest there. Throughout the day we sought to appreciate what we received from the generation before us and perhaps more importantly, what we will pass on to the generations to come.  ~Isaac Dayan