Pre-Mission to Poland Expected to Be a Historic and Transformational Journey
Don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime to join the Greater Miami Jewish Federation on the Pre-Mission to Poland, April 10-16, 2018, the lead-in to the Israel at 70 Mega Mission. Pre-Mission Chair Sidney Pertnoy recently returned from a planning trip in Poland, where he spent nearly a week ensuring all participants would have a rich and powerful experience. “I’ve been involved in this work for more than 20 years, so I know it will be a transformational journey,” said Pertnoy, who is also Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, a Committee of Federation, an Officer of Federation and past Board Chair of Hillel International.
Pertnoy, who’s been traveling to Poland since 1994, has witnessed the resurgence of Jewish life firsthand. “When I first visited Poland, it was still a Communist country, and it was a struggle to find signs of Jewish life, even in the Jewish Quarter,” he said. “It was almost like a façade. But today, this time, it is very real. Poland is an economic power. Krakow is this hip and up-and-coming city, and the land is embracing its Jewish history. They are not trying to bury their past.” Evidence of this Jewish renaissance is everywhere: new mezuzot are affixed to many doors; there is an increasing amount of buildings with Hebrew writing along with Jewish schools and Sunday schools. There is even a Hillel and a newly constructed JCC in Krakow. “To see the vibrancy of Jewish life come back to the place that was once the center of the Jewish world is simply phenomenal,” added Pertnoy.
Participants on the upcoming Mission will get to witness all of this and more. The group will visit and learn about significant sites of Jewish life in Poland, including remains of the Jewish Ghetto, synagogues in Warsaw and Poland and the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and Treblinka. Travelers will have the opportunity to visit new museums, institutions and organizations that demonstrate how Judaism is once again flourishing in Poland, including the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which includes eight galleries that span 1,000 years of Jewish life; the JCC Krakow, which offers an Early Childhood Center, programming for teens, adults and seniors as well as support for the 70 Holocaust survivors in the area; the Zabinski Family Villa at the Warsaw City Zoo, made famous in the recent film The Zookeeper’s Wife, and more.
A highlight of the Pre-Mission will be when the group joins more than 100 Miami teens on Yom HaShoah for the 30th anniversary of the International March of the Living, led by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. Parents will join their children who are marching and, hand-in-hand, follow the footsteps of the thousands of Jews who were forced to make the death march along the railway tracks from Auschwitz to Birkenau. They will emerge from Birkenau as a global Jewish family of 10,000 who have witnessed the history of the Holocaust.
Adding an entirely different dimension to the Mission, Holocaust survivors from our own community will join the trip to share stories and providing heart-wrenching, eyewitness accounts to the atrocities they survived. Participants will honor their presence and testimony with respectful prayers and visits to grounds they once inhabited. With the number of survivors dwindling, the opportunity to share these powerful moments with them is diminishing. The Chief Rabbi of Poland will be joining the Mission as well, promoting the future of Jewish life alongside a thorough understanding of the millions of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
After six days in Poland, participants will join the Israel at 70 Mission to commemorate Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. “Even if you have been to Poland or Israel before, arriving in Israel following the journey through Poland that participants will have just experienced will be entirely different,” said Pertnoy. Am Yisrael Chai will take on an entirely new meaning as they celebrate the strength and solidarity of the Jewish people and the 70th birthday of Israel.