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 Wrocław and an overnight in Lodz, 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 Sid Leiman, who, through lectures and on-site commentary, will help us appreciate the phenomenon and vibrancy of Jewish life in Poland over the centuries
Afternoon: Check in to the 5-star, deluxe Bristol Hotel, superbly located near Warsaw’s Old Town.
Evening: Overview of Jewish history and culture in Poland by our scholar, Professor Sid Leiman, followed by orientation and an opportunity to get to know one another, followed by a welcoming dinner at our hotel (included).
Depart hotel for 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.
Afternoon: After breaking for lunch on our own, visit the Warsaw Jewish cemetery—the largest in Europe and one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. Many Jewish luminaries were buried here over the years; it comprises more than 200,000 marked graves as well as the mass grave of victims of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Evening presentation by Professor Leiman: R. Yudel Rosenberg and the Creation of the Golem in Warsaw, followed by dinner on our own.
Depart our hotel, by coach, for our morning’s walk to Umschlagplatz (where the Jews were gathered for deportation to Treblinka); Mila 18 (site of Jewish fighting organization in the Ghetto uprising); and the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews. At the museum, we will have a private guided tour, with ample time for lunch on our own at the museum and visiting its gift shop.
Later this afternoon, we will visit the Nożyk Synagogue, where we will meet with the chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich (or one of his assistants), and learn about Jewish life in Poland today.
Evening at leisure, dinner on our own.
This morning, we will visit the Jewish Historical Institute, once the main Judaica library and the first Jewish research and educational center in Europe. The most precious of its collections is the Ringelblum Archive, found in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. First unearthed in 1946 (a second trove was come upon by chance in 1950; a known third part is still missing) and containing more than 6,000 documents, it is a veritable treasure, shedding light on what Jewish life was like in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Following a break for lunch on our own, we will visit the National Museum of Warsaw for a private guided tour, highlighting the “Polish–Jewish Exchange” through works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The tour will cover Jewish themes in Polish art as well as contributions of Jewish collectors and patrons. Especially prominent on this tour are works of artists Maurycy Gottlieb, Moïse Kisling, Eugeniusz Zak, and Henryk Berlewi.
Evening presentation by Professor Leiman: Jewish Confrontation with Modernity.
We will depart Warsaw for Lodz, where Jews were an integral part of the textile industry in the early 20th century. Lodz was known as the “Manchester of Poland,” and Jewish families owned 175 factories, including the I. K. Poznanski factory, one of the largest textile plants in Europe. Upon arrival in Lodz, we will break for lunch on our own before a visit to the Radegast train station historical site and the Lodz Jewish cemetery. We will check in to the Vienna House hotel, originally part of Poznanski’s textile factory and today a top hotel with artworks throughout its premises.
Evening at leisure, dinner on our own.
Depart Lodz for Wrocław, formerly known as the German city of Breslau. Upon arrival 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 are perhaps 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 and wife of Fritz Haber; she committed suicide in objection to her husband’s work in developing chemical warfare), Ferdinand Lassalle (founder and leader of the first labor party in Germany, killed in a duel), and the parents of Edith Stein.
Break for lunch on our own in the Old Market Square, before a walking tour of Old Town and checking in to the Art Hotel. Time to rest and relax before Shabbat dinner (included) at our hotel.
Morning: Free, or (optional) attend services at the Jewish community prayer room (next to the White Stork Synagogue, including kiddush with the congregation).
Afternoon: (Optional) walking tour, including the White Stork Synagogue, the Little Synagogue, Takowa Street (monument to the New Synagogue, which was torched during Kristallnacht), and Świdnicka Street (former Jewish theater).
Evening talk by Professor Marcin Wodziński, director of the Center for the Culture and Languages of the Jews, as well as the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław and the author of several books and articles. Dr. Wodziński’s special fields of interest are the social history of the Jews in 19th-century Poland, the regional history of the Jews in Silesia, and Jewish sepulchral art.
Depart Wrocław for Kraków. En route, visit Katowice for a private, guided tour of the Silesian Museum (one of the largest in Poland), which contains works of Polish art, including some remarkable portraits by Stanisław Wyspiański.
Upon arrival in Kraków, we will check in to the 5-star deluxe Sheraton Kraków, with time to rest and relax before a late-afternoon walking tour of Kraków’s Old Town and the Rynek. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town is a 13th-century medieval town and the largest of its kind in Europe. Dinner (included) at our hotel.
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 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: the new memorial on the 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 presentation by Professor Leiman: Lifeboat Ethics, followed by dinner on our own.
Today, we will visit 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 just 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 Leiman, where we will process and discuss together our experience at Auschwitz.
This morning, we will visit Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory (formerly a factory, now host to two museums and made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List), as well as visit Plaszov, a former forced-labor camp and an important memorial dedicated to the Polish Jews.
Afternoon: (Optional) visit to Wieliczka salt mine.
Evening at leisure, dinner on our own.
Morning 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.
Lunch on our own; afternoon free to rest, continue exploring Kraków on our own, or for any last-minute shopping.
Evening: Festive closing dinner (included).
Departure for home.
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 facade, 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.
The deluxe Vienna House Andel’s Hotel is an historic red brick façade, housed in a former weaving mill on the grounds of Manufaktura, the city’s premiere shopping, arts and cultural center. Its unique architecture is a combination of colors and forms, design and material, warmth and hospitality. Superbly located, its large windows and light colors ensure a spacious, airy feel. The hotel’s rooms combine modern design and technology in a modern setting.
The elegant and stylish Art Hotel is located in the cultural heart of Wroclaw just a few blocks from the Market Square. From the hotel, it is a short walk to theatres, 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 are one of the most intriguing places in Wroclaw.
The five star Sheraton Grand Krakow is ideally located on the bank of 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 Wisla River. Spa services, a fitness center, and a sauna are also onsite, as well as an indoor pool. Considered Krakow’s finest hotel, all its rooms have been beautifully restored featuring a residential ambiance.