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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Heritage Trip to Poland 2016/5776: Day 2

Students in Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin
To start off day two of our Hertiage trip to Poland, we headed just downstairs to the famous Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin. We learned about the history of the building, the yeshiva and the Torah scholars that learned there. The building was restored a few years ago and we had the privilege to spend the night in one of the most renowned yeshivot in Poland.
Students walking into the memorial entrance at Majdanek
We then made our way to Majdanek where we continued retelling the story of Halina Birenbaum, a Holocaust survivor, and her experiences in the camp. It was a meaningful experience in all aspects as we saw how the Jews were treated and what happened to them on a day to day basis. As we saw the horrific gas chambers and crematoria, we each took an introspective moment to reflect and say a prayer. At one point in the day, we encountered a shoe exhibit in which thousands upon thousands of shoes were piled up on display. This poignant moment resonated as we discussed how each shoe represented a life, a soul. We thought about what we planned to take away from this exhibit and how we live our lives in our own shoes.
Mincha in the ruins of the shul in Krasnik
After Majdanek, we made our way to an ancient Shul in Krasnik. The unrestored Shul represented destruction and reminded us of the life that once was. We were able to breathe life into the walls of this Shul as we prayed Mincha and rekindled the sparks that our ancestors had created in that very building.

After a two hour bus ride, we made our way to a Shul in Dambrowa Tarnowska where we saw Jewish artifacts and remnants of shuls from the pre-war era. We learned together b'chavruta, discussing the concepts of slavery and freedom and how they are expressed spirituality and physicality.
Children's mass grave, reading letters from parents
Afterwards, we made our way to the mass grave memorial site just outside the city of Tarnow. This was an especially meaningful and touching experience as each student received a personal letter from their parents as they reflected and prayed. We each took a few moments to think about how these barbaric acts would affect how we live our lives and what type of lives we will live in honor of those that were taken.

We ended off the somber yet deeply meaningful day with a lovely dinner before we made our way back to the hotel. ~Linda Guindi