Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Warsaw [3]

Last night at the opening session Larry Moses, President of the Foundation, gave a powerful presentation on the personal, emotional, and more existential aspects of being a child of survivors. It is difficult to summarize such a talk and I can only hope that he will post it or publish it in some form.

This trip is designed NOT to be just a let's tour the terrible Holocaust sites in Poland but it is designed to facilitate a conversation among Israelis and North Americans about aspects of their Jewish identities.

Consequently the participants have been broken up into small groups -- equal numbers of Americans and Israelis -- to tackle aspects of that conversation. They began that conversation last night. It continued more informally today on the multi-hour bus trip to Lublin.

It "exploded" tonight at the conversation about the commemorative trips to Poland [see previous post].

One of the reasons tonight’s conversation became so raw was that something happened today at Majdanek which brought some of the subliminal issues into sharper focus.

We met a group of Israeli army officers who were visiting the camps together with both a Holocaust survivor and some parents who had lost children in Israel battles. The high ranking officer who was in charge of the group invited us to attend the ceremony they would be holding in Majdanek.

Because of scheduling matters if we had stayed to join them we would have had to drop the stop at Yeshiva Churchmen Lublin, the yeshiva which created the study program Daf Yomi [daily Talmud study].

Two of the members of the group – a Reform and Orthodox rabbi -- had carefully prepared a study session which was a composite of traditional Talmudic sources and contemporary theology/philosophy about the Holocaust [Fackenheim].

The Israelis were VERY upset that we were leaving Majdanek without participating in the ceremony [it began as we started to depart]. Some of the Americans felt they were overreaction, especially since this was not something that had been planned in advance and it's hard to simply shift things around.

The organizers felt that we could not summarily drop another element of the program, especially since two of the group had worked so hard to prepare the study session.

For some people this seemed to juxtapose the idea of a modern state of Israel as opposed to all that is represented by the Yeshiva [which was an anti-Zionist place].

Then there was tonight’s session and all those raw emotions.

When I left the bar a few minutes ago Israelis and Americans were deep into discussion [and some drink] discussing, debating, reflecting and just talking.

I guess that means that things are working as they should be.

Gotta pack. After a morning meeting with the Director of the new Museum of Polish Jewish History, we take a train to Krakow.

Laila tov.


Bookfest said...

This doesn't very much matter, but for the record, it's spelled "Daf Yomi"

Deborah Lipstadt said...

thanks for pointing out the typo.

Tamar Orvell said...

Thanks so much for live blogging this stellar undertaking. Typing in Tel Aviv, where the Polish consul is steps from my front door and, in my Hebrew literature class, reading Aharon Appelfeld's "Poland, A Green Country," your posts are just in time. In class, my "mature" classmates, all secular Israelis, scream a lot, interrupting the brilliant teacher with their "I am a proud Israeli and I am a proud Jew" in response to discussions on the author's autobiographical novel. His thoughts on identity and its loss, among other issues, including the images of new Jew and ghetto-village Jew trigger passionate, loud, and uncompromising responses. So Israeli. And your depiction of the "VERY upset" Israelis at Majdanek on the Americans' schedule... brought a nod of recognition. A sad nod.