Poland in Review

Director’s Note

Dear parents,

Shavua Tov! We hope you have been enjoying our daily blog posts, and as we officially begin Biluim Israel 2019, this is your first official weekly recap and photo album blog post (the Poland photos should now be on our blog as well). Now that the entire group of chanichim have arrived and enjoyed a Shabbat together, we can’t wait to embark on our Biluim Israel 2019 adventure. Stay tuned for weekly recaps and postings each week along the way.

Our first week in Poland was truly a very meaningful one. Over the course of the week, we explored the vibrant Jewish communities of the past in cities and towns such as Krakow, Warsaw, Lublin, Zamosc, and Lancut, and what Jewish life looked, sounded, and felt like before the war. We learned about how for some, Chasidism and Torah study played a vital role in Jewish Life, while others subscribed to different Jewish philosophies and movements such as Orthodoxy, Zionism, and Socialism. We walked along the Path of Heroism in Warsaw and were inspired by the story of Mordechai Analevitch and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. We visited concentration and death camps and places of tragedy, such as Auschwitz, Birkenau, Majdanek, Belzec, and Plaszow. We also heard testimony from our Educators, Risa and Ayal, about their families’ personal connections to tragedy and hardship that took place in the forest during the time of the Holocaust.

Throughout it all, what was personally most impactful for the staff, Risa, and myself, were the processing discussion sessions that took place at different points throughout the week, during which we got the opportunity to hear the deep and insightful ideas that the chanichim had. During these sessions, led by our staff and educators, the chanichim shared their feelings and emotions, and were further challenged to describe how they were going to bring this knowledge home with them and back into their Jewish communities and lives. For many, the week allowed them to view the Holocaust, their Jewish identity, as well as what it means to spend the summer in Israel as CYJ Campers in a different way. It was a very special week, and of course, I hope that the conversations continue between you and your children, either by phone or when they return after the summer.

We’ve also pasted a camper-letter from that was sent out to all of our CYJ summer camps below. It was read at each camp over Shabbat.

So enjoy the Poland photos, and stay tuned for updates on Instagram, Facebook, and the blog this week to tide you over until next week’s recap and album upload!

Chazak Ve’amatz,

Ryan Peters


Camper Letter

Dear Camps Kadimah, Hatikvah, Shalom, Solelim, Kinneret and Biluim,

We write to you from Biluim Israel 2019, where we are staying just outside of Jerusalem.

We arrived from Poland yesterday, where we had a emotional and meaningful trip. Throughout the week we traveled all across Poland. We started our journey in Warsaw, where we visited old synagogues and cemeteries, mostly dating to before the war. Here, we learned about the legacy of the Jews of Europe, and the colourful life they lived prior to the 1940s. We had the privilege of hearing from Mr. Andrew Tillman, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. We feel extremely honoured to have had him accompany us on this trip, and know that we will forever remember the stories he told. After his story, we stood in Mifkad formation to sing Hatikvah. This made us miss our camps, and recognize how lucky we are to be in such beautiful places every summer. In concentration camp Majdanek, Mr. Tillman led us in Kaddish - the mourner’s prayer - as we stood around the dome of ashes. This was an extremely emotional experience for every camper and staff on the trip, since this was our first visit to a concentration camp. Next we visited the death camp of Belzec where half a million Jews were killed. Later that day we had an impactful experience at a mass grave in the forest, where we heard testimonies of the few who survived these mass executions. It felt very surreal to be in such a beautiful forest, where such tragic events had taken place. We then made our way to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a camp which partially remains as it once stood, and partially acts as a museum. Here, we witnessed artefacts of those who perished in the camp, allowing us to understand more realistically the magnitude of individuals lost there. In Birkenau, we walked through barracks as they had stood in the 1940s. We heard testimonies of family members from the group, creating a very personalized experience. At the camp, we were able to search through a book containing the names of 4.5 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Campers found names of lost relatives, and we finally became aware of the enormity of the event. Finally, we finished our journey in Krakow. We did a walking tour of the city, where we visited synagogues, and also visited major sites of the deportations. This allowed us to more easily comprehend all that was lost in the war, including the entirety of the Polish Jewish community. We visited Oskar Schindler’s factory, and the site of the Plaschau Concentration Camp. We had a camper with us who is a descendant of one of Jews on Schindler’s list, so visiting this location was especially meaningful for him.

Our journey through Poland made us that much more grateful for the experience we will have in Israel in the coming month. As we prepare for our first Shabbat in Israel, our hearts are back at camp, wishing you all a great first Shabbat and start to the summer.

Shabbat Shalom CYJ,

Love Jordan Snow, Abbey Bard, Zevi Kline, and Annika Zworth.

Gabriel Helfant