These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PEP Student] Living History vs Reliving History

Posted on January 25, 2010 by Phil

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A brief explanation. As David pointed out already, the Poland trip was filled to the brim with learning , walking, and reacting. Getting back to the hotel at midnight, we were expected up and bright eyed by 5:45. As the days went on, it became increasingly difficult to process our thoughts by the time we got home, let alone blog. I’d like to contribute a few posts to the blog this week so keep a look out for some random musings. Below is something I wrote up the first day but was unable to post.

Rabbi Levi Cooper’s reader calls our Poland trip a ‘Seminar.’ The implication of this label is that our journey in Poland will be more than just a emotionally evocative experience it is also a chance to learn our history. And it is history that has been on my mind throughout the first two days here. The sad history of the Jews in Poland has been chronicled in thousands of books attacking the period from many angles. Books can be read anywhere, but in order to make use of our presence in the land where these events took place, our educators got to utilize a more imerssive form of history learning.

In the small village of Tikocyn in August 1941, hundreds of Jews were herded into trucks and driven to the nearby forest of Lupachowa. Thinking they were merely being transported, the Jews of the community marched forward despite the heat. The Nazis prodded the victims to the edge of deeply dug pits, at which point they shot and killed the multitude and left the forest hoping their deeds would remain undiscovered.

Levi told us none of these facts directly, instead, he used a first person account of a survivor of the shootings along with the surroundings in order to guide us through an experience of the events rather than simply teach us of the events. We began in Tikocyn’s central square, where Levi read us a young girl’s tale of being ripped away from her father and forced into the carts toward the forest. Levi related the tale, describing the square as it existed in 1941. I was able to look around and experience the sights and sounds of the square as it is today. Levi picked up the story at the edge of the woods, the long march to death brought to life both through both Levi’s words and our own walk through the snowy wood. As I stood gazing at the gaping holes listening to the tragic end of our young girl’s tale, I reflected on the painful nature of the experience. Through a carefully constructed combination of touring the site and reading one person’s experience, Levi was able to inspire affect unobtainable by even the most thorough historical works. We all experienced the very strong Jewish technique of living, rather then telling, history. Rather than allow us to view the Holocaust from a distance, our trip to Poland has enabled us to undergo the difficult process of literally walking in our father’s footsteps. Though difficult, I can’t help but feel inspired by the continuity of experience across time that further unites us as a people.

Pardes trips to Poland are run in partnership with Heritage Seminars. The Claims Conference has provided trip scholarships for qualifying Pardes participants, as well as subsidies for program components directed at Jewish educators. cc_logo_copy_OP