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This is Sheldon, Reporting From Poland

posted 30 Jun 2016, 22:43 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin   [ updated 14 Jul 2016, 22:53 ]

Sheldon’s Last Word - I Remember

The reason I am a centrist liberal is because I believe that the only way to make the pledge of Never Again a reality, is the hope that by dialogue rather than fists and bullets, we can lessen xenophobia and inter-cultural hatred and murder.  More than ever now that I have been constantly reminded  while here that the soil of Poland has been watered with the blood of Jews and fertilized with Jewish ashes, bones and flesh… Luckily, the revival of Judaism along with an interest in Jewish culture and a ruthless honesty about the role of many Polish people during the Holocaust in furthering  the Shoah,  may allow Judaism in Poland to  become a "light unto the nations" --at least to Poland-- where born again Polish Jews, Polish Judeophiles,  are spreading the word about the Jewish values of deeds of kindness, the rational and loving argument, and especially the importance of self-questioning, teshuva and tikkun.

Signing off:  Sleepless in Warsaw.
I hope to see all of my good friends at the Lodzer this coming Shabbat!

(A very moving tribute - Thank you Sheldon)

20160714 - Warsaw -- a city of hope for young Jewish-Poles

The Libeskind building overlooks Warsaw. Daniel Libeskind is the Lodzer-Israeli-Canadian who has become a world renowned architect. Doesn't the point appear as a finger pointing up to Shamayim? Be careful Warsaw--you have been warned.

The 1000 year history of the Jews in Poland told in terms of maps, models, interactive displays, movies, and even words.

A map of the Shtetls. Can you find Ostrowiec?

The Shtetl where I live.

I davened at the only surviving shul in Warsaw for Shachrit on Thursday July 14.


Elken is chatting with our Polish friend Monika.  She helped us accomplish the mission of our trip to Poland: Remember. Monika has made that her own mission before we did: Remember "The People Who Were".


We attended a conference on Dialogue in Warsaw. One of the participants who is an outstanding thinker has climbed to the heights.


Elken discussing the issues facing young Jews in Poland with Ola. She hates when "Americans" ask here why she doesn't leave Poland for the States or Israel. She was born in Poland and works to improve the situation for Jews in Poland.


Our last evening in Warsaw.  Our view from our apartment in the former Warsaw Ghetto. This is a typical apartment/condominium building similar to where we are staying: the Communist Government had a flair for building the Boring in the fifties.
Contrast it with the Libeskind--there is an inbuilt joy in his building.


20160710 - Sheldon and Elken, why did you go to Poland?

Here is why Elken and I went to Poland. The hometown of my family.

This is the original house on Siennienska 1 where my mother's family lived. Except for my mother and my brother as a baby and a few who died before WW II, the others were consumed in the Shoah.  I prayed there.

We are in the Historical Museum of Ostrowiec where the man second from the right, Waldemar, is the curator of things Jewish. From left to right: Elken, Monika our amneusis for our quest in Poland, Waldemar, and Woitek, the unofficial expert of the Shoah as it burned through Ostrowiec.

Sheldon and our friends in Ostrowiec who care about keeping alive the memory of the Jews of Ostrowiec.

I davened Mincha on the barren ground near the plaque where the wooden Ostrowiec Shul stood until the Nazis set it on fire.

The cemetery of Ostrowiec. Again I prayed on behalf of those with no descendants.


(closeup - crop of above)


The old former Jewish market now newly renovated where thousands of Jews were killed during the "liquidation" of the Ostrowiec Ghetto in October 10/11 1942. No marker commemorates the mass murder.

I saw the train tracks from the window of our hotel room in Ostrowiec where the Jews were sent to Treblinka and Aushwitz-Birkenau.

We heard the ominous night rumblings of the passing trains.

I davened Shachrit looking over the morning quiet of the tracks innocently doing their job regardless of the cargo carried in the trains.

Who is to blame?

The tracks said "I am not to blame. I am just rusty steel bent by the will of the Nazis".

The cargo cabs said, "I carry what ever is loaded into me. It's not my choice".

The bystander said, "I knew not where they were going. I had no knowledge of the gas chambers".

Eichman said, "I am just following orders. It is not my decision".

We say, "Humans choose. Humans are responsible."

Why did Sheldon and Elken go to Poland--to remember those who otherwise would be forgotten on the very ground where they lived and where they were killed. I remember.

(Sheldon, Thank you for saying what I am no longer allowed to say.)

20160708 @ 3:15 PM -- The park of the survivors


These stones along a walkway in Lodz's park of the survivors have familiar sounding family surnames.


20160707 @ 11:30 AM -- Our twin shul in Lodz

We attended Kabalat Shabat services at the only functioning shul in Lodz. It is in the Jewish community centre. We were invited for a community Shabat dinner. On Shabat I was given an Aliyah honour. It is a spirited and warm community similar to us in Toronto. We are fraternal twins.


20160707 @ 8:38 PM -- Chatting with a Jewish Poet in Lodz -  Julian Tuwim

Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953) in conversation with me about why he returned to Lodz after the Shoah.




(Something to ponder.)

20160706 - Reicher's synagogue in Lodz


Elken and I are standing in front of Reicher's synagogue in Lodz on July 6.
The sign above the door "invites" you to attend services during weekdays,
Shabbat and Holidays at the JCC.  In other words, the only surviving
synagogue has no services.


20160706 @ 5:32 PM

Content may be disturbing!

(Auschwitz is now a tourist attraction complete with bookstore and cafe.)

20160704 - Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau

We visited Auschwitz and Birkenau on July 4, the 70th anniversary of the Kielce Pogrom. Emotional devastation accompanies  a sense of how disgracefully the memory of the millions murdered  is treated when  Auschwitz-Birkenau has been turned into another tourist spot equipped with book shop and Cafe. Who will say Kaddish and the Kael Rochomom for those without descendants? So, Elken and I recited those prayers quietly but never before with deeper urgency and purpose. Why else visit those sites of horror?


20160704 @ 12:42 PM

20160703 - We Keep Coming Back

"We Keep Coming Back"--A play we saw in Kraków on Sunday July 3, about a son and his mother, performed by the actual people, from Toronto, who at the urging of the son travelled to see the respective Polish-Jewish Shtetls of the holocaust survivor parents of the mother. The woman to the left in the poster is their actual guide and interlocutor--a Polish woman who discovered her hidden Jewish ancestry and subsequently came back to Judaism and obtained a PhD in Jewish Studies from Hebrew University.


20160705 @ 10:37 PM

20160630 - First full day in Poland

This is not me in search of my Jewish ancestry in Poland but a work of art in the Galicia Jewish Museum.


20160630 @ 8:41 PM

The Aron Kodesh in the Ramah Synagogue represents The Throne of Hashem. That is my impression--is it Mercava Mysticism?

Rabbi Moshe Isserles, known as REMU (c.1525-1572) became its first rabbi because his wealthy Dad was a macher in Kraków's Jewish community and funded the building of the shul.  


20160630 @ 3:41 PM

20160629 - This is Sheldon, Reporting From Poland - stay tuned...

We spent our day of arrival in Kraków, the late afternoon of Wednesday June 29, on exploration and orientation.


A map on the street for tourists.

Our apartment in the old Jewish quarter, Kaziemerz, overlooks the ancient ghetto wall. Today we plan to immerse ourselves into the Jewish Culture Festival.


The ghetto wall behind our apartment  -- 20160629 @ 1:10 PM