July 25, 2024
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July 25, 2024
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RKYHS Seniors Conclude Powerful Jewish Heritage Trip to Poland and Jerusalem

RKYHS seniors capped off a memorable and life-changing trip to Poland by celebrating Yom Yerushalayim in Israel. The seniors have spent the prior week receiving a firsthand look at the horrors of the Holocaust and understanding life in Poland before the war. After arriving in Warsaw, the group started their non-stop touring immediately with visits to the Warsaw cemetery and the Warsaw Ghetto. As they walked through the once-vibrant Jewish communities in Poland, the seniors came away with a new understanding of the devastation of the Shoah. The journey included visits to concentration and extermination camps including Auschwitz Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek. Several students on the trip were able to see the barracks and camps their great-grandparents had been in and the towns they had lived in.

Upon the painful visit to a mass grave, senior Jackie Perel documented in the online journal for the trip, “Before us are a series of mass graves. We stopped at the last grave, which was surrounded by blue ribbon and memorial candles.This grave was designated for children. They did not understand their murder; they did not know that this place would be their grave. Hitler saw the children as a threat to his empire,because children represent hope and the future. Today these children were surrounded by our group, and we will ensure that they did not die in vain, because we carry them with us everywhere we go.

Senior Jacob Jablonka commented after his visit to Treblinka, “The ground of this circular graveyard is embedded with countless still-smaller stones, all nameless. These smallest of stones make the entirety of the floor uneven and uncomfortable to walk on. Though they were never mentioned, these stones represent those who died in this horrible, abominable, efficient place. These stones represent those whose lives and deaths must be felt, acknowledged and experienced with every step.”

The students toured surviving area synagogues and batei midrash including Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, which our students filled once again with the sounds of Jewish songs, prayers and dancing, and brought Havdala into the square of the Krakow Ghetto.

While touring the countryside, including the rural village of Markowa, RKYHS students obtained a greater knowledge of the environment for Polish non-Jews as well during the war. There they visited a farm where righteous gentiles hid Jews during the war. “I was shocked at the bravery and willingness to sacrifice that I encountered…I truly appreciate the grave state of danger in which the family put itself, and I’m sorry the wonderful family was murdered despite its true righteousness,” commented senior Nina Kahn.

After an emotionally taxing six days, the students were so excited when they finally arrived in Israel and davened at the Kotel. Only once they had felt the devastation of Poland could they really appreciate Israel, the true Jewish homeland that ensures that the Holocaust will not repeat itself. The visit in Israel was made more meaningful this year as their trip was capped off with the celebrations for Yom Yerushalayim.

This meaningful and powerful trip truly strengthened their Jewish identities and connection to their history and roots, and will be an experience they will never forget.

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