12 months ago eglazer 0
There’s a bunch of words that can be used to describe the past three weeks that I spent on CTeen’s Heritage Quest: sad, tragic, happy, fun, exciting. The list goes on and on, but there is one word that sticks out the most: inspiring.
What do I mean by “inspiring”? The inspiration began when we arrived in Poland on the first day of the trip. From the airport, we loaded the bus, and drove straight to Warsaw, where we saw part of the ghetto wall and different memorials. That was the first of what we saw from our time in Poland, and it included ghettos, labor camps, death camps, concentration camps, and other horrific places. We stood on ground that, years ago, was the very location of our destruction. We sang songs and said prayers on the very land on which Jews were being killed just for being Jewish. But, we’ve come back stronger, bigger, and bolder-and we will never give up. One of the highlights of Poland was spending Shabbat in Krakow; I’m sure our ancestors never imagined that we would stand there, let alone spend Shabbat in Krakow, but there we were.
What else do I mean by “inspiring”? Another location that stands out in my mind from the trip was Tzfat, where we spent the second Shabbat of our trip. Tzfat is a pretty cool place-it’s a city that sits secluded on top of a mountain, but when you venture into it, you see that there is more to it than you would’ve thought. It is filled with shops, restaurants, and people everywhere! But when the sun sets and Shabbat comes in, the shops close down and the people begin to fill the shuls. The sounds of prayer transform the city for 25 hours. Being a part of that was amazing!
On Shabbat day, we went to a cave. Inside of the cave, was a group of boys singing “Ani Mamin.” This is the same song that I wrote about in my Poland article (which you can find here). I first became familiar with this song in Poland at the Treblinka Death Camp. We went from singing this song at a place of murder to listening to it being sung on Shabbat in one of the four main holy cities in Israel-and that was inspiring. This song was written about hope while the future seemed scary and unknown, but today it was sung knowing that there is hope and that tomorrow can only be better.
Another super inspiring part of the trip? Shabbat in Jerusalem! We brought it in at the Western Wall while singing Shabbat prayers and songs. Our circle began with just our CTeen group, but after a while, other camps and strangers joined us. We even had female IDF soldiers sing with us, and they took the time to teach us songs they enjoy! That Friday night was spent with Jews at the Western Wall. Not Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall, not Reform Jews at the Western Wall, but just Jews. All that mattered that night was that we were all Jewish. The labels disappeared. There were so many strangers in our circle, we didn’t know anything about them. We just knew that they were Jewish and we were gathered together singing, dancing, and just being Jewish with them. The unity and pride felt that night was “inspiring.”
So, yes, these past three weeks were filled with a lot of emotions. But, what’s really going to stick with me is the feeling of inspiration. We —the Jewish people— have come a long way since the Holocaust. We were being killed just for being Jewish. The Nazis didn’t want to believe we would still be around today, but here we are. CTeen Heritage Quest was truly inspiring. It showed me that no matter what we’ve been through, or what we might go through in the future, we will always come back even stronger. Am Yisrael Chai!