The overcast day began for us at 9 AM with Shabbat Davening. The only shul left standing in Warsaw is called the Nozyk Synagogue. The only reason why it remains and wasn’t destroyed by the Nazi’s is because the Nazis preferred to keep it in service as a horse stable for themselves.
The synagogue is beautiful granite floored and marble columned large room, where the women sit on top high above the men. After Shacharit led by a shul member, our men took over and led the remainder of the service. David, Jonny, Larry, and Bob each expertly layned at least an aliyah, and Mark sang a beautiful haftorah. Our men represented Beth Sholom with pride. Rabbi Tessler then gave a very moving drash about the Parsha-Chaya Sara. He did a great job going slow enough so that a shul member translating the drasha into Polish didn’t get behind…we think! (Some of us thought that maybe he was not really translating and was just announcing the latest sport scores).
After a beautiful melodic Musaf led by Rabbi T, we joined with the other “congregants” for a small Kiddush on the main shul floor. During Kiddush, Rabbi T started talking to someone, and then found out he had once lived in Potomac on Fontaine, behind the shul. What a small world we live in. We of course talked with him, and then invited him to join us for the other activities we had going on for the rest of the day. Glynis had also met his young guy from South Africa whose father had lived across the street from Glynis. Talk about a small Jewish world.
We then had lunch with Rabbi Shudrich and other community people in the shul. The meal was different types of salads, then potato kugel, then overcooked luchkshen kugel, then cholent in that order. We had a dry apple cake for dessert. Very Polish-Ashkenaz.
We were then introduced to Ignazi. He is the great grandson of a righteous policeman who was brave enough to hide Nira Berry’s mom and grandmother during the war. Nira’s mom was only 4 when she and her mom were forced to hide in in the potato shed and then chicken coop owned by Ignazi’s great grandfather for 4 years. A few years ago, Nira completed her mom’s wish to find the family of the person who had hid here. They connected and just last year, this family was awarded a medal in honor by Yad Vashem.
He told us the story, passed around pictures and the actual medal and answered all of our questions.
We then went on a short walking tour, and saw the Memorial to Janis Korczak. He was a physician and author that also has many orphanages in Warsaw. When it was the time where the Nazi’s took his children to Treblinka, he refused to accept being saved and went to the death camp with his kids. He would not let them go alone. At the memorial we saw many different candles lit. We were told that the polish Catholics light candles just like Jews.
Then after a brief rest, we did a quick Havdalah and then hopped on the bus for our private guided tour of the POLIN (museum of the History of Polish Jews.) We had only 2 hours to go through the main exhibit and our guide was great in telling us the highlights of each exhibit. This museum talks about the 1000 year history of the Jews in Poland, not just the horrific events that took place in WWII.
On the grounds of the museum, there is a memorial for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, as we were within the former Ghetto wall!
After another lovely meal at the Galil restaurant, we ended our evening around 10. Got to get up early tomorrow. We have to be packed and ready to hit the road by 8:20am.