It is good to be back after a very emotional and meaningful two-week journey to Eastern Europe. It appears that Israeli PM Netanyahu and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had the same idea as us as they just visited many of the places and sites that we went to! We visited many Jewish sites including Synagogues, cemeteries and museums and went to the home towns and resting places of our families and forebears.
Eastern Europe seems like one big memorial. It was sad to see so many communities that were once thriving with large Jewish populations, now nearly empty of Jews. In every place we went, there were memorials, museums and cemeteries to the communities that once were. In places such as Poland where there was once in excess of half a million Jews, today, you’d be lucky to find even five thousand. What happened to our people in Europe is just mind boggling.
We visited a few, small far flung towns in Slovakia, some of which only had a few Jewish families residing in them during the war. Yet even those towns were emptied from Jews. Thus was the far reaching and consuming hatred of the Nazi’s. No place was too far and no resources were withheld when it came to killing even just a few Jews. I also had the honour of visiting and leading services in some very old and special Shules such as the Altneu Shule in Prague where the famed Maharal (Rabbi Yehuda Lowe, maker of the ‘Golem’) was Rabbi as well as the Rema Shule in Krakow (‘Rema’ is the acronym for Rabbi Moshe Isereles – great Ashkenazi rabbi from 16th Century and author of ‘Notes’ to Shulkhan Arukh).
If you would like to have a glimpse into our personal journey and some of the other special places we visited please take a look at our Facebook pages and come to shule over the upcoming weeks as I continue to share snipers and gleanings. We will also be sharing thoughts and musings of our journey at a special Melave Malke to be held next Saturday night, 7.30pm, at the house of my in-law’s, Ari and Esther Leuchter. Please speak to us for further details about this.
On this Shabbat where we will read about the various journeys that the Jewish people traversed on their way towards the holy land, I am reminded how the Jewish nation has continuously been made to travel from place to place, from country to country. This trip hi-lighted to me just how lucky we are to have the State of Israel – a land that all Jews can call home. Let us not take her for granted.
Wishing you and your families Shabbat Shalom!!
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman
PS: This Shabbat I look forward to sharing with you the story of the dungeon that is in these pictures!
Hint: It is located right next to the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest (in an underground bunker)!