April 14, 2024
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MTA Students Explore Jewish History and Life in Poland

For 10 days students in Yeshiva University High School for Boys’ (MTA) “Names, Not Numbers” program traveled to what used to be the country with the largest Jewish population in the world, Poland. This trip was billed as a “Chesed and Leadership Training Mission” which indeed it was. The goal was not only to see what transpired during the terrible years of the Holocaust,  but also to get a taste of what Jewish life is like today in a land where Jews have resided for about 1000 years, and to meet and work with some of today’s Jewish leaders there.

While there, the 21 of us were accompanied by our Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Taubes and Mr. Gabi Danielli of our Hebrew Department, as well as by Mr. Dov Rosenberg, who coordinated the trip (and joined later by Mrs. Tova Rosenberg, creator of the Names, Not Numbers program). We had the opportunity to learn about Jewish life pre-World War II and of course to learn about the Holocaust by visiting many historical sites and memorials, including several concentration camps. There, we davened, sang and reflected upon the horrors which took place in those very locations. We also visited the gravesites of many prominent rabbinic figures.

Besides touring, our students met with several Polish Jewish leaders, including the Rosh Kollel of Warsaw, the Lauder School Principal and Assistant Principal responsible for online Jewish education, and the Director of the Krakow JCC. In addition, we heard from a righteous gentile whose family saved two Jews during the war, a group of non-Jews who are involved in Holocaust education, the organizers of the famous Krakow Jewish Festival, a survivor who is active in the revival of Jewish life in Krakow and Jewish and non-Jewish students in Krakow. We also participated in a Shabbaton organized for Polish Jewish students in the Lauder School’s on-line educational program.

Towards the start of the trip, the group met with Ms. Olga Kaczmarek, who is responsible for the international relations at the Forum for Dialogue Between Nations, a Polish organization whose mission is to teach tolerance and eradicate anti-Semitism. After Olga’s presentation, Rabbi Taubes noted that “the students in this program are the future leaders of Poland, who now have the knowledge, experience and appreciation of the history of the Jews, and what our ancestors went through.”

The trip included Torah learning and shiurim appropriate for the various places we visited, a tremendous spirit of ruach and a sense of true friendship among the participants. It was thus a highly successful trip on multiple fronts, and served as the culmination of a meaningful and crucial experience in the “Names, Not Numbers” program.

By David Schmidt

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