Poland: Hindsight, Hope, and Human Kindness

September 25, 2017

  • Jewish Life and Values

Emily Freed is the owner and founder of Farmer Freed's culinary salt blends which feature local, organic, and sustainable ingredients from farms along the California Central Coast. $.36 from every jar of Sababa Salt goes to support Jewish female farmers via Farmer Freed’s “You Grow Girl” program which empowers young women to farm organically and sustainably within a Jewish agricultural context. She recently participated in a trip to Poland with other members of the ROI Community

In hindsight of 23 years, it was a good thing I did not attend the March of the Living trip as a teenager. This was evident during the first day of the ROI Delegation in Warsaw, Poland as I quickly realized that I would learn much more about WWII and the Holocaust as a 41 year old rather than as an 18 year old. If I had gone on the March of the Living trip, I wouldn’t have had the desire to go on the ROI Poland Delegation - a trip that has forever changed my view on darkness, humanity, and the power of hope.

It’s impossible to sum up the six days of the ROI Delegation in Poland in a mere 400 words so I’ll focus on my most memorable and moving moments of our time together;

  • Hearing Julie Finkelstein tell the stories of how her grandfather survived multiple concentration camps plus the death march after the camp was liberated. “I choose life,” he said when a guard asked him which way he would rather die. Thankfully some type of commotion happened at the camp, and the guard was pulled away to deal with another situation; thus, ultimately saving her grandfather’s life. The Finkelstein family stories give a whole new meaning to the words L’Chaim.

  • Attending Friday night Shabbat services in Warsaw. Throughout the service, I thought about how European Jews could not attend synagogue or celebrate the Jewish holidays for years during WWII and the Holocaust. The ROI group just walked right in to the synagogue in Warsaw, sat down, prayed, and welcomed the Sabbath with other Jews from around the world. Praying and spending time in that synagogue gave me a greater appreciation for my Jewish heritage as well for all of the European synagogues that were not destroyed during the war.

  • Visiting the Frajda childcare center at the JCC in Krakow. It was quite moving to learn about the opening of first Jewish preschool (since before WWII), and to be a witness to the center opening its’ doors in a few short weeks.

  • Let’s be honest, it was a very intense week and we all needed to chill out. Going out dancing on Shabbat with Gregg, Stephanie, and Ariel was good for the soul – we all needed to let loose and bust our moves on the dance floor.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.