Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

The Jews of Poland

May 12 — 23, 2023

Jewish Heritage Travel to Poland | jhtravel.org

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Accompanying Scholars

Chaim Seidler-Feller recently celebrated his 40th year of working with students and faculty as the executive director of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA. Currently director emeritus, he also serves as director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals. An ordained rabbi, he also completed a master’s degree in rabbinic literature. Chaim has been a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is also a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute, North America, and of the Wexner Heritage Foundation and was rabbinic consultant to Barbra Streisand during the making of the film Yentl. The International Hillel Center has granted Chaim the Hillel Professional Recognition Award “for blending the love of Jewish tradition with the modern intellectual approach of the university.”

Marcin Wodziński is a professor of Jewish history and literature and head of the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław. His academic interests range from the social history of Jews in the 19th century to the history of Jews in Silesia and Jewish material culture, especially the history of Hasidism and Haskalah. His publications include more than 100 articles in Polish, English, Hebrew, French, and Czech, nine books authored and one coauthored, and six volumes coedited.

Maciek Zabierowski is head of Learning at the Auschwitz Jewish Center, a role he has held since 2006. He designs and runs workshops on Jewish history in Poland, the Holocaust, and human rights for Polish and European students of all ages and Polish law-enforcement officers. Zabierowski received a master’s degree in history in 2006 from the Jagellonian University. In 2012, he was featured as a scholar for Facing History and Ourselves’ Holocaust and Human Behavior international seminar. He is also a licensed tour guide in Kraków, specializing in Jewish walking tours.

 

 
POLAND IN THE NEWS

From the New York Times:
Many tourists who come to Poland see a story of Jewish death. In Krakow, not far from Auschwitz, leaders are trying to tell a different story, and spur a resurgence in Jewish life.
Read the article…

 

Program Overview

Before World War II, Poland’s 3 million Jews represented one of the largest and most influential Jewish communities in the world. The diverse community included Hasidim, secular Jewish intellectuals, Yiddish writers, Zionists, and socialists. Recently, a world-class museum opened in Warsaw, devoted to what Jewish life and culture were like in Poland. Jewish festivals in Kraków and other parts of Poland attract tens of thousands of people each year. Additionally, several universities have opened Judaic studies departments that have nurtured graduate students who have published impressive publications, bringing to life important aspects of Poland’s astonishingly rich Jewish history and culture.

Join us on what promises to be a meaningful and fascinating trip—beginning in Warsaw, where a highlight will be a guided tour of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a museum that explores Poland’s 1,000-year Jewish history. Additionally, in Warsaw, we will visit sites including the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the memorial of Mila 18, and the Umschlagplatz—the site from which Jews were deported to Auschwitz and Treblinka.

From Warsaw, we will travel to historically rich Kraków, with a stop in Lodz and an overnight in Wrocław, where we will learn about the prosperous textile industry built by Jews and the role they played in this thriving industrial city. From there, we will continue to Kraków, once home to a flourishing Jewish presence. Here, we will explore the district of Kazimierz, with its many surviving synagogues, a prewar Jewish cemetery, and the largest medieval market square in Europe. Additionally, we will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and newly expanded Auschwitz Jewish Center.

Traveling with us throughout will be accompanying scholar Professor Chaim Seidler-Feller, who, through lectures and on-site commentary, will help us appreciate the phenomenon and vibrancy of Jewish life in Poland over the centuries.

Tentative Daily Itinerary*

Friday, May 12 | Warsaw

Afternoon: Check in to the 5-star deluxe Bristol Hotel, superbly located near Warsaw’s Old Town.

Evening: Presentation by our scholar, Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Overview POLIN: The Tragic Story of a Jewish Homeland,” followed by orientation and an opportunity to get to know one another, and welcoming Shabbat dinner at our hotel (included).

Saturday, May 13 | Warsaw

Morning: Attend services at the Nożyk Synagogue (built in 1898, and Poland’s only existing synagogue since then, an easy walk from the hotel), followed by a walking tour of Warsaw that will include the Old Town, Market Square, and the Barbican (surviving remnant of Old Town’s defensive structure). Break for lunch on our own in the Old Market Square, an area filled with street vendors, cafés, shops, galleries, and some of Warsaw’s top restaurants, all within easy walking distance.

Evening: For those interested (optional), a night at the Warsaw National Philharmonic, located a few minutes’ walk from our hotel, where Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #5 will be performed, as well as a piece by Paul Kletzki, a Jewish composer and conductor.

Sunday, May 14 | Warsaw

Morning: We will begin today at the National Museum of Warsaw and enjoy a private guided tour highlighting the “Polish–Jewish Exchange” through works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Our tour will focus on Jewish themes in Polish art, including contributions of Jewish collectors and patrons. Especially prominent on this tour are works of artists Maurycy Gottlieb, Moïse Kisling, Eugeniusz Zak, and Henryk Berlewi.

Afternoon: After breaking for lunch on our own, we will visit the Warsaw Jewish cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in the world. Many Jewish luminaries were buried here over the years, and the cemetery comprises more than 200,000 marked graves, as well as the mass grave of victims of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Evening: Presentation by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “VARSHA (Warsaw): A Beacon of Jewish Cultural Creativity and Renewal,” followed by dinner on our own.

Monday, May 15 | Warsaw

Depart our hotel for Umschlagplatz (where the Jews were gathered for deportation to Treblinka) and proceed on foot for Mila 18 (site of Jewish fighting organization in the Ghetto uprising) and then continue our walk to the impressive Polin: Museum of the History of Polish Jews. At the museum, we will have a private guided tour, with ample time for lunch on our own at the museum, and time to browse in its gift shop. (Please note: for those wanting to spend more time at the museum and continue exploring exhibits of personal interest on their own, taxis are available.)

Evening: Presentation by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Hasidism: A Revolution of the Spirit and Its Impact on Jewish Life,” followed by dinner on our own.

Tuesday, May 16 | Lodz | Wroclaw

We will depart Warsaw for Lodz, known as the Manchester of Poland, where Jews were an integral part of the textile industry in the early 20th century. In Lodz, Jewish families owned 175 factories, including the I. K. Poznański factory, one of the largest textile plants in Europe. Upon arrival in Lodz, we will stop for a visit to the Radegast train station historical site (used extensively to serve as the Umschlagplatz for deportation of Jews to the extermination camps) and the Lodz Jewish cemetery—once the largest Jewish cemetery in Poland. During the course of our time in Lodz, lunch on our own.

Late this afternoon, we will depart Lodz for Wrocław (formerly known as the German city of Breslau) and check in to the elegant Art Hotel, located in the cultural heart of the city, in time for dinner at the hotel (included).

Wednesday, May 17 | Wroclaw

In Wrocław, we will visit its impressive Jewish cemetery, reopened in 1991 after many years of neglect. The beauty and diversity of styles and symbols on display here are unmatched—so much so that it is now known as the Museum of Jewish Cemetery Art, in tribute to the craftsmanship of its sepulchral art. Many noteworthy figures are buried here, including renowned biologist Ferdinand Cohn, historian Heinrich Graetz (author of the first complete history of the Jews), Clara Immerwahl (first female PhD student at the University of Breslau), Ferdinand Lassalle (founder and leader of the first labor party in Germany), and the parents of Edith Stein, also known as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a highly respected German philosopher. Born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish environment, she converted to Catholicism, was ultimately canonized as a saint by the Catholic church, but was, ironically, deported to Auschwitz and murdered there because of her Jewish heritage.

Following a break for lunch on our own in the Old Market Square, we will enjoy a walking tour of Old Town, including the White Stork Synagogue.

Evening: Presentation by Professor Marcin Wodziński, director of the Center for the Culture and Languages of the Jews, and the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław. Author of several books and articles, Dr. Wodziński is especially interested in the social history of the Jews in 19th-century Poland, the regional history of the Jews in Silesia, and Jewish sepulchral art.

Thursday, May 18 | Kraków

This morning, we will depart for Kraków. En route, we will visit Katowice for a private guided tour of the Silesian Museum (one of the largest in Poland), which contains unusual works of Polish art, including some remarkable portraits by Stanisław Wyspiański. Lunch on our own at the museum.

Upon arrival in Kraków, we will check in to the 5-star deluxe Sheraton Grand hotel, considered Kraków’s finest hotel, with time to rest and relax before a late-afternoon walking tour of Old Town and the Rynek—Kraków’s main square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back to the 13th century and the largest of its kind in Europe.

Friday, May 19 | Kraków

Welcome and lecture by Maciek Zabierowski, coordinator of the Learning and Special Projects division at the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Maciek will be our guide for the day as we tour the Kazimierz District and visit its important Jewish sites. Some of the sites we will see in the Jewish district include the Alte Schul; the Remuh, Isaac, High, and Tempel Synagogues; the former Jewish streets and marketplace; and the old Jewish cemetery.

Lunch on our own before visiting the former Ghetto area to see the new memorial on Deportation Square and the remnants of the Ghetto wall from 1941. Our last stop of the day will be the Galicia Museum, documenting remnants of the Galitzianer heritage in Poland and Ukraine today.

Evening: Depart our hotel for the Kraków JCC for Shabbat services, followed by dinner with members of the Jewish community (included).

Saturday, May 20 | Kraków

Morning free. Afternoon tour of the Wawel Castle (seat of the Polish monarchs until 1596), including Wawel Cathedral and Dragon’s Cave, within walking distance of our hotel.

Evening: Presentation by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Rabbi Moses Isserles (Remo) and the Curious History of the Code of Jewish Law *(Shulhan Arukh),”* followed by dinner on our own.

Sunday, May 21 | Kraków

We will spend the day visiting the Auschwitz Jewish Center for a tour and a light lunch (included), followed by a guided tour of Auschwitz itself. The Auschwitz Jewish Center (AJC) in Oświęcim, operated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, is located two miles from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps. The only Jewish presence in the vicinity of Auschwitz, the center opened its doors in 2000 so that people from around the world could gather to learn, pray, and remember the victims of the Holocaust. Evening discussion led by Professor Seidler-Feller, where we will process and discuss together our experience at Auschwitz.

Monday, May 22 | Kraków

Our day will begin with a walking tour of Kraków’s Old Town and the Rynek (main town square). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Town is a 13th-century medieval town—the largest of its kind in Europe.

Afternoon: Free for exploring sites of interest on our own and/or last-minute shopping. Or for those interested, visit Schindler’s factory on our own (transportation will be provided).

Evening: Closing dinner at our hotel (included).

Tuesday, May 23

Depart for home.

*Please Note: Daily schedule may be modified subject to weather or unanticipated changes.

Accommodations

Warsaw: Hotel Bristol

Situated on the famous Royal Route, in the heart of Warsaw, for over 100 years the 5-star Hotel Bristol has served as Warsaw’s most distinguished destination. With a majestic neo-Renaissance façade, romantic interiors, and Art Deco elegance, the Bristol is just steps away from Nowy Swiat—the most fashionable street in Warsaw. Recently renovated, the Bristol combines incomparable beauty and luxury with a prestigious blend of history and culture. The exquisite guest rooms reflect an engaging mix of comfort, discreet elegance, and state-of-the-art technology.

Wroclaw: Art Hotel

The elegant and stylish Art Hotel is located in the cultural heart of Wrocław, just a few blocks from the Market Square. From the hotel, it is a short walk to theaters, museums, art galleries, and numerous restaurants and pubs. The hotel’s decor includes wall paintings, ceramics, wooden ceiling beams, portals, and stuccos; its rooms are cozy and furnished with stylized furniture, picturesque fabrics, and flowers. Located in a beautiful 16th-century tenant house, the Art Restaurant and Cafe is one of the most intriguing places in Wrocław.

Krakow: Sheraton Hotel

The 5-star Sheraton Grand Kraków is ideally located on the bank of the Wisla River, within walking distance of the historic Wawel Castle, “Old Town,” and the famous Kazimierz district. This hotel has three restaurants, including the Roof Top Terrace, with views over Wawel Castle and the Wisla River. Spa services, a fitness center, and a sauna are also on site, as well as an indoor pool. Considered Kraków’s finest hotel, the Sheraton has beautifully restored all its rooms with a residential ambiance.

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Accommodations

Travel in comfort. We stay at deluxe hotels with fine amenities. Accommodations for this trip listed below.

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Program Details

Program cost: $6,200* (plus $54 Museum of Jewish Heritage membership fee for nonmembers) Program fee includes:

  • 11 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels
  • Full breakfast daily; one lunch; four dinners
  • All group transportation via deluxe air-conditioned coach
Per-person, double occupancy; single supplement ($900) and gratuities ($165) additional

To reserve your place, please complete the registration form and submit with a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 per person (payable to Jewish Heritage Travel). Balance in full is due 120 days prior to departure.

Please note: If Covid restrictions cause us to postpone this trip, your deposit will be credited toward your choice of any 2022 or 2023 Jewish Heritage Travel program.

Participation

We require that all participants provide proof of Covid vaccination to participate in any Jewish Heritage Travel program.

Limited to 26 participants, the program will entail considerable walking, including uneven terrain. Participants need to be in active, good health, able to keep up with the group, ready to travel and experience group and cultural differences with grace. If you have any questions, or need help with your travel plans, please call the Jewish Heritage Travel Office at 845-256-0197.

Help with Travel Arrangements

One of the services we provide, at no additional charge, is to help with your travel arrangements. Our knowledgeable and patient staff can assist you in making your travel plans — including booking reservations that are available from the various airlines.