While in Krakow, we visited the Jewish Studies students of Jagiellonian University. At the Jewish Studies Center, in the heart of the vibrant Jewish Quarter in Krakow, the students study Yiddish, Jewish History specifically in Poland, and the Holocaust. We divided into small groups and met with a selection of students. We talked about different research projects and research ideas, they exchanged resources and angles for their studies. It was a pleasure to meet with these scholars and learn a Polish perspective on the Holocaust.
Our year with Cohort V is coming to an end. We will be with them for another month then they will return to the far reaches of the world. To celebrate our year, we held an event with our generous donors, Doron and Marianne Livnat, as we simultaneously celebrated the life of Yitzhak Weiss-Livnat. With a heavy heart we grieve the loss of our great friend and partner, but we also laud him and his family for the existence of our program. Through the family’s generosity, this year alone, they have effected 30 students, but in actuality they have infinitely changed the world as we send our students out with the tools to impact the world.
One of our students, Wei Zhang, from China has recently completed an internship with the Jewish Museum in Berlin. His research revolved around Jews in Shanghai during the Holocaust. Wei helped the museum translate documents from Chinese to German and English, bringing to life stories that were otherwise lost in archives. He’s written about some of his experiences in the museum’s blog. Here’s the link to the blog post:
While in Warsaw, the study tour group went through the Polin Museum. The museum showcases history of Jewish people in Poland, starting in the Dark Ages. The opening exhibition of the museum relays the story of the first Jew to come to Poland, said to be a merchant, and as he traveled through the land he heard from heaven: “Po-lin (Poe-Leen)” or in Hebrew “rest here.”
Walking through the gates of Auschwitz was surreal. The infamous camp sees about one million visitors every year. Each of the barracks have been renovated as exhibition spaces or offices, and many of the exhibitions have been organized by specific countries for the Jews from these respective countries. In 1947, Auschwitz became a protected site of the state with the purpose of remembering those who perished there. Since then, the staff has been preserving and conserving the site and artifacts found at the site.
On Shabbat, the study tour group took a walking tour through what was previously the Warsaw Ghetto. Despite Nazi intentions to destroy Warsaw as they pulled out of Poland, pieces of the city still stand, including sections of the wall. We visited a quiet corner of an apartment complex where a portion of the Warsaw Ghetto wall remained. At this intersection, we talked about smuggling into the Warsaw Ghetto. During the first few months after the establishment of the ghetto, walls were built between buildings using existing walls, so houses at the edge of the ghetto had windows that gave access to the outside world. As a result, children were often used as smugglers and breadwinners for their families because they could fit through windows and were often less suspicious. Through the years, Nazis built walls in the middle of streets to restrict underground activities, though this did not end smuggling.
Dr. Jan Grabowski visited the University of Haifa earlier this Spring. During his visit he gave a lecture on Jews in Poland to our students, and moreover he filmed the videos for an online course which will be available to current students. Dr. Jan Grabowski is a professor at the University of Ottawa, originally from Poland, he offers a growing network to our students.