Central Europe Discovery: Global Shabbat with New Friends

Friday, July 5th we had a long journey to Krakow! We toured The Wieliczka Salt Mines on the way! We were 1000 feet below the ground! We checked into our hotel and prepared for Shabbat! We framed Shabbat with this quote, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” The purpose of framing our Shabbat with this quote is because we wanted to encourage our teens to embrace something different. Different isn’t necessarily good or bad it’s rather a new experience! We enjoyed joyful and energetic Shabbat service with 200 NFTY teens and shared a Shabbat dinner with NCSY teens!

On Saturday, we toured the Jewish Quarter in Krakow and saw a memorial for the 60,000 Jewish people rounded up in the square during the Holocaust. There were 60 chairs and each chair represented 1000 people. We also saw the outside of Schindler’s Factory. Later in the day, we saw Wawel Castle and had free time in the Market Square! Before Havdallah, we discussed the meaning of our names and how the numbers of the Holocaust are so large they are almost too big to comprehend. We encouraged each teen to connect to the names they saw at Auschwitz-Birkenau in order for them to be able to connect at a more personal level. We are so fortunate to have built a strong bond of trust and respect amongst our bus that our discussions continued into sharing personal and family stories on how each of us personally connect to the Holocaust.

Today was probably the hardest so far of our adventure. Today we visited the concentration camps. We set off early to bear witness at Auschwitz and Birkenau Extermination Camp. We are not sure if there are any words to full explain what we saw or felt. It all seems so unreal. And yet it was. As we walked the train tracks at Birkenau, walking the path that so many took to their deaths. A couple of our teens wrapped in a Flag of Israel turned to me and said; “I feel so powerful and alive a big screw you to Hiltler.”After the camps we stop by the only surviving synagogue of Oswiecim.

When we got back to our hotel we had a big hangout bowling party with Bus A. Tomorrow we set off for our last city on our tour – Warsaw. We will stop along the way to see Zbylitowska (a mass grass memorial) and Majdanek. We can’t believe this leg of the adventure is almost over. 

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