When we realised that our tour to Poland meant we would be spending the weekend of The Shabbos Project in the city of Kraków, I had mixed feelings. Shabbos is about family and The Shabbos Project, in particular, has always been about reaching out and including others into this special mitzvah. Kraków seemed to be a place tainted by its history in my mind - the neighbor of Auschwitz - Birkenau, the ideological home of the Shoah. It turns out that the opportunity to bring The Shabbos Project to Kraków was a once in a lifetime moment; a spiritual hot bed of paradox and juxtaposition. The beauty of this spectacular European city so deeply contrasts with the symbolism for which it is now famous, and this contrast runs deep to its core.
In every moment of this Shabbos I felt overwhelmed by the presence of our ancestors - the holy and blessed memories of shtetl life. Friday evening found us davening in one of Kraków's many remaining shuls (all desecrated but left standing by the Nazis). No one could deny the incredible truth that indeed "Shabbos has kept the Jews"; here in the heart of Poland, teens from Israel, adults from South Africa, tour members from the US and London, all stood and sang the very same Lcha Dodi. The Shabbos bride welcomed by the voices of differing accents, differing opinions, differing points of view, all of us Yidden, all of us keeping this commandment; shamor vzachor.
Shabbos day saw us walking the town and we couldn't help but inhale the smells of cholent pots of some 200 years ago, warmed in the ovens of bakeries which once stood nearby. We were heartened by the scenes of courtyard lifestyles, communal centered living for accommodating the halachot of eruv.
One cannot help but be devastated by that which we have lost, the thriving Jewish life of Poland which was taken from us and is only now starting to take root again in its own small way. The tragedy is breathtaking. And in the same breath, holding our Havdallah candles outside Oscar Schindler's factory, our tour's survivor, Mrs Salt, points to us an image of someone she knew, and we are forced to admit the incredible tenacity of the Jewish people and the immense reach a project like The Shabbos Project has. Here we stood, in a spot that is synonymous with hope, with human consciousness, in the heart of a country which has had its community all but obliterated, and we are smelling our besamim, and watching our candle flame's dance in the cold winter night. You can indeed kill our bodies, but you will never kill our souls.
We are here. Am Yisroel Chai.
For info on the annual tours please contact Tova Goldstein 082 574 9541.
Keren Zwick is a mum to 2 beautiful blessings (BH) and is lucky to be married to her best friend Elan. Keren juggles motherhood with writing, editing, content production, teaching and permanently worrying about absolutely anything. She is a dedicated Yiddeshe mama passionate about chinuch in the home and lives by the words of Viktor Frankl "The salvation of man is through love and in love."