Original Article Published On The Jewish Ledger
As Jews around the world celebrate Passover, the holiday commemorating our journey from slavery to freedom, Jews from around the state are preparing to relive a more recent bondage to liberation story.
From May 3 through 13, about 80 Connecticut residents will join 18,000 Jews from around the world on the National Yom Ha’Atzmaut Mission to Poland and Israel.
“This year is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camps,” notes Caryl Kligfeld, director of Refugee Resettlement and coordinator of Israel/Overseas Programming for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.
Kligfeld said that New Haven’s delegation numbers 45 people,
including grandparents bring grandchildren, mothers traveling with daughters, and daughters bringing their mothers. The delegation from the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford is comprised of approximately 35 delegates.
The National Yom Ha’Atzmaut Mission Chair is Bob Naboichek of Hartford. In a letter to participants, Naboicheck, who is also chairman of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, notes, “We will be in Poland at an important milestone in history — the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of World War II.” Accompanying the group will be scholar-in-residence Shalmi Barmore, founder and director of Yad Vashem’s Department of education in Jerusalem and current director of Melitz’s Education, Culture, Heritage Organization (ECHO) Program.
The Connecticut delegation, whose trip is organized by the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of Jewish federations in North America, will be touring Poland and Israel together, and will be joining groups from around the world for on Thursday May 5 (Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Commemoration Day) for the March of the Living. David and Jean Federation are the leaders of the Hartford delegation.
On the march, the 18,000 expected marchers, including youth, Holocaust survivors, dignitaries from Israel and Jews and non-Jews from Israel and around the world, will slowly and quietly relive the Death March from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
Yizkor services will be held at Birkenau at the conclusion of the march.
The New Haven delegation has been preparing for the mission in a variety of ways. A series of lectures on the history of the Jews of Poland, have taken place at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, and an extensive packet of source materials has been prepared for each participant. At a March 21 meeting, which preceded a lecture by Barmore, trip co-chair, Dr. Norman Ravski, a New Haven physician and himself a three-time participant in the March of the Living in five years, prepared the group for what he described as an “incredible journey.”
“I know the profound feelings that this trip will evoke,” Ravski said. “Together we will learn, cry and rejoice. I think that the committed community leaders that are going with us will have a new and even deeper commitment to Jewish life here at home and in Israel.”
At a well-attended April 11 get-together at the home of Ravski and his wife, Karen, he discussed such practical issues as cell phone rental in Poland and Israel, the purchase of special stools for sitting during the long March of the Living day, medications and clothing to bring, Polish currency and adapters for electrical appliances.
Sydney Perry, executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Haven, recently back in New Haven following a one-month sabbatical in Israel, got the group excited about the mood and weather in Israel. As Perry addressed the group, she was cutting blue and white yarn, to more easily identify the delegations’ suitcases at the airport.
“We will go as witnesses to Poland; as pilgrims to Israel,” Perry said.
The delegates will arrive in Krakow on May 4 and will begin the trip with a visit to the Auschwitz barracks and crematorium. On May 5, the group will start the day with an early morning tour of the Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz, including the Remuh Synagogue, the Old School. The March of the Living takes place in the afternoon. On Friday, May 6, the delegates travel to Majdanek Death Camp during the morning and early afternoon, before arriving in Warsaw, where they will have Shabbat dinner with such guests as Israeli Ambassador David Peleg; Rabbi Michael Shudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland; and Helise Lieberman, principal of the Lauder Morasha School. Following Shabbat in Warsaw, the group will depart for Israel, where they will hear addresses by diplomats and academics, tour Jerusalem and partnership 2000 sister community, Afula/Gilboa, commemorate Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day), and celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).
“Our participation is so high, I believe, because of the importance of memory, of bearing witness; just as we Jews are obligated to remember Egypt, our enslavement and our liberation, so too are we feeling the imperative of remembering Auschwitz,” Kligfeld said. “As the last survivors of that horror pass on, it is incumbent on the next generations to remember and to tell; to continue to be witness, and to never forget.”