I am in
What was striking about the teenagers was how normal it all was. One can easily forget where one is and the fact that, until 15 years ago, these kinds of activities would have been, if not risky, certainly frowned upon by the government.
Late on Sunday the real "work" began. The purpose of my trip is to accompany a group of alumni if the Wexner Foundation's programs. They include alumni of their Israel/Harvard Kennedy School program, Graduate Fellows program, and their Heritage program. Each program has a different target audience. One is for mid-career Israeli government and NGO officials, those who are clearly on a fast track. The Graduate program targets students entering rabbinical, cantorial, communal service, education, and PhD programs. It helps fund their graduate work and provides them with outstanding programs over the course of the 4 years of their fellowship. The Heritage program targets emerging [and some rather emerged] North American Jewish lay leaders.
The programs are all highly selective and are run at the highest level. This trip was open to alumni of each of the programs [there was only space for 40 people so not everyone who wanted to go was able to do so]. The trip itself is designed to be far more than an exploration of the history of
We spent yesterday visiting the main Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, walking what remains [virtually nothing] of the streets of the ghetto, meeting with Rabbi Michael Schudrich [the Chief Rabbi of Poland], and engaging in conversation amongst ourselves.
We had a provocative [in the best sense of the word] discussion at the Rappoport memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto about the nature of Yom HaShoah and its linkage in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s to the Ghetto uprising. In fact, in Israeli society in those decades the two were linked, as if to suggest that the majority of victims went like "sheep to the slaughter" while the ghetto fighters were the heroes. [This is a very complicated conversation but it was really stimulating to have it with a group of Israelis and Americans.]
Many parts of the day were fascinating but, since I am limited by time [we are off to
For many people in the group it is hard to fathom why anyone would want to stay here after all that happened on this soil [of course it happened at the hands of the Germans who, in certain -- but certainly not all -- cases were "supported" in this by Poles]. Yet it is striking to hear the stories of how people make their way back -- slowly, hesitantly -- to this aspect of their identity.
There is more to tell but I have to go to breakfast, give a talk on the intersection of memory and identity, and then head off to
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Warsaw: Reflections 
I am in