The RKYHS seniors took part in a Holocaust Studies Seminar in Poland and Prague. The group of students, several parents and teachers traveled throughout the country to learn about the rich Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the war and to bear witness to the devastation that the Holocaust wrought.
They spent the beginning of the trip visiting the Warsaw Ghetto and its cemetery, Umschlagplatz, Mila 18 and the Rappaport memorial and heard about the acts of heroism that took place there. The next day they began with davening at Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin where they joined together with a tour from Israel for singing and dancing. Then students entered the Majdanek concentration camp where they were able to see firsthand the atrocities that took place in the camps including the horrors of the gas chambers, cramped barracks and the haunting rows and rows of discarded shoes that line the rooms, a glimpse of just a sliver of the amount of lives lost.
While traveling around Zamosc, the group visited the Zamosc synagogue where they learned the history of the Jewish community, which over several centuries took part in shaping the region’s intellectual, religious and cultural identity. RKYHS parents Murray Halpern and Jeremy Halpern who attended the trip with their 12th grade children led a moving memorial at the Belzec Death Camp, the site where 600,000 Jews were murdered, including their grandfather/great-grandfather. That same day students visited Markowa, a small town near Lancut where they heard the story of righteous gentiles, and Zybylitowska Gora, the site of the mass murder of Jews from Tarnow, a town where Jews used to make up half the town’s population.
The last days in Poland for the RKYHS seniors were incredibly moving and impactful as they visited Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau to bear witness to the harrowing experience of all who were there, followed by a Shabbat to unpack and decompress in Krakow and a visit to Schindler’s factory on Motzei Shabbat.
After this indescribably moving week for the students, they began the next phase of their trip in Prague. Their first stop was at the Plashov concentration camp where they had the privilege of meeting Plashov survivor Rav Yosef Lewkowicz and daven Hallel there. Then it was off to Prague where students took in the sights on e-bikes and scooters, had a nighttime boat ride and more. Students returned home to the U.S. after a most meaningful and valuable trip that left an indelible mark, providing an experience that will last them a lifetime.