Visiting the sites of prewar Jewish life and the horrors of the Holocaust was brought “to a human level” by the participation of a survivor on “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” the May 5-15 Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ mission to Poland and Israel.
Mission members spent four days in Poland, commemorating the losses of the Holocaust and experiencing the emerging rebirth of Jewish communal life in the country.
Ruth Ravina, a Holocaust survivor who lives in Montclair, accompanied the group. Born in Kozienice, Poland, in 1937, Ravina underwent massive suffering and a “miraculous” survival; she was the only Jewish child from her town who remained alive after the war.
This was the first time in many years that a survivor accompanied this federation mission and Ravina’s first time returning to the sites of her and her family’s suffering. During the group’s visit to Treblinka, she found the names of many relatives on the lists of those who were murdered there.
“I’ve been to the death camps before, but being there with Ruth brought it to a human level for all of us,” said mission leader Ellen Goldner of Mountain Lakes. “The conflicting emotions are quite jarring. Several times every day we were jolted back and forth from the anguish of mass murder to the sparks of a Jewish future.”
Among the other sites the mission went to were Auschwitz-Birkenau, the museum at the Oskar Schindler Factory, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Nozyk Synagogue; the only prewar synagogue remaining in Warsaw, it now serves as the headquarters of the Jewish community.
The visitors met with Polish Jews to learn about the rebirth of Jewish life in the country and welcomed Shabbat with members of the Cracow Jewish community.
The group then traveled to Israel, where they joined in commemoration of the country’s fallen soldiers on Yom Hazikaron and in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s 68th Independence Day.
They spent Shabbat in Jerusalem and visited sites of GMW projects, including Kibbutz Erez, a federation partnership community in the Negev, where they planted trees in the new Greater MetroWest Grove and Friendship Park.