Monday, July 14, 2014

After Auschwitz, a Tuba?

I am not sure if I am going to write about the visit to Birkenau in the morning nine days ago or Auschwitz in the afternoon. I will eventually, but I have had an internal issue with Shoah business for many years because of an unfortunate teaching experience involving the documentary Night and Fog. I have been blessed with teachers in my schools who are wonderful at teaching the topic, so I have been happy to leave it to them. That is going to change - at least for my involvement. For now, let's say it was a very emotional day for me and all of the staff and teens on the NFTY L'dor V'dor trip - as it would be for anyone.

After we returned to the hotel in Krakow to wash up and have a nice communal Shabbat Dinner, we joined the local Progressive Synagogue - Beit Krakow - for Kabbalat Shabbat. Here is that posting:




After Auschwitz, a Tuba?
By Ira J. Wise

Friday morning we took the bus from our hotel in Krakow to Birkenau/Auschwitz. It was a very emotional day as you might expect. After touring both camps, punctuated by a series of shared survivor testimonies read by participants and a ceremony to honor and remember the dead, we were all pretty drained, emotionally Dinner.

We returned to the hotel for a shower and Shabbat and tried to return to the land of the living. Who knew all we needed was an accordion, a baritone tuba and a hammer dulcimer?
Rabbi Segal is on guitar at left. And yes, that is a tuba!

Following dinner we traveled to Beit Krakow – a Progressive congregation which holds services at the Galicia Museum. The Galicia is in a building in the Kazimirz, the old Jewish community of Krakow. It is filled with art produced by local Jewish artists and photographers and has a book shop and coffee shop. The museum is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Beit Krakow held services in a large open space in the back, amid exposed brick and more another rt exhibit. The room was filled with people – over 160 of  us with NFTY – plus more than 100 members of the community and visitors in town for the annual Jewish Festival.

Services were led by Rabbi Tanya Segal. She was joined by three musicians, One played what appeared to be a hammer dulcimer as well as a flute. Another had and accordion and the third played a baritone tuba! Most of the tunes were familiar to most of our teens – especially those who attended our camps or are part of NFTY youth groups. The phrasing was a little different, but it was a joyful noise! Some our teens and madrikhim got up to dance in the side exhibit hall.

Beit Krakow's
Logo
I grew up singing Cantor Steve Sher’s Dodi Li. It is one of my favorites. It sounded fabulously different with accordion and tuba! It was the same and different all at once. The way Rabbi Segal led the service was a bit different than what most of us are accustomed to. Yet realizing that we had spent the day quite literally in the valley of the shadow of death it was amazing to see how Polish Jewry is coming back to life!

If you have the opertunity to make the pilgrimage we have to Birkenau/Auschwitz, I highly recommend you make arrangements to spend Kabbalat Shabbat with Beit Krakow! – it will soothe your soul after the turmoil of the visit to the camps!

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