Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A long, long day

Oy! What a long day. I don't believe that people were made for 36+ hour days that include travel and very emotionally intense travels. 

I will not bore you with the details of travel, only to say that if you do need to fly to Poland, bring meals with you. The food leaves a lot to be desired... even for airline food. 

Zippy Gur had us on the run from the get-go today. Our day began at the Jewish archive/museum, which provided a very sobering picture of Jewish life in Warsaw before and during the war. What I found most fascinating was the room that included an arc, reader's/cantor's table, and other religious artifacts including Torah covers from Greece. 

One of the questions that kept being posed was why didn't the Jews revolt sooner than January 1943? We kept coming back to process. We need to remember that the final solution was a work in progress and not a fully-formed idea. Therefore, there was always hope that life would get better. 

From there we were off to lunch and our first experience of Polish cuisine. And it left a lot to be desired. We were brought to the Warsaw equivalent of Ross Park mall. The verdict: expensive and not that good. But we were hungry and it was fairly quick food. 

In all honesty, the day is a bit of a blur. I (and the rest of the group) were all tired and bleary-eyed. I need to review my photographs to get the chronology correct and to post images (which will happen tomorrow). However, one of the more moving moments for me was standing at the one remnant of the southern ghetto wall. You do get a sense of how easy it was to isolate the Jews and at the same time could appreciate how, because of the brick wall, it would be possible to set up a smuggling operation to get contraband goods into the ghetto. We also visited the Jewish cemetery, which presented its own series of stories about Jewish life in Poland. Again, pictures will be forthcoming. Really. 

This evening we heard remarks from the Progressive movement's resident Rabbi and the resurgence of Jewish life in the country. (I apologize, I cannot remember his name at the moment. It's now 20:50 and I'm working on very little sleep at all — in fact, I been told more than a dozen times how to say thank you in Polish and for the life of me cannot make it stick in my brain. And I like learning languages!) What I found fascinating was this idea of creating (or recreating?) a Jewish world in a country that saw more than 90% of its Jewish population murdered in the last great world conflict. I need to ponder why this would be of interest to the population. The Rabbi called it a path of discovery of the lost or hidden Jewish identity (my words). But is this enough to create a resurgent population to make Jewish culture vibrant in Poland?

Hopefully tomorrow's post will be more coherent. 


Invitation List for ABM Jewelry said...

Thanks for posting these observations... sleep-deprived and all, they are much appreciated.

Avi (Eliana's mom)

Saulman said...

We paid our respects to the ghetto fighters today. We went to the Jewish Historical museum next to the site of the former great synagogue in Warsaw. When the Nazis had finished burning down the remnants of the ghetto, they blew up the synagogue as a celebration. The museum is an original building.

We saw a very graphic and disturbing documentary about the ghetto in Warsaw in the museum. Children wheeling dead bodies in wooden carts, picking up the corpses when they fell off and putting them back on. Death like a banality. j

The best part of the museum was the ghetto fighter's guns that were pulled from some rubble. This trip to Poland was worth it just for that site, and for the ability to stumble my way through the Kaddish at Mila 18. The Ghetto Fighters are heroes for all time.