From Darkness to Light: Women’s Mission Travels to Poland, Israel

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IMG_0120.JPGDozens of women representing the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Women’s Philanthropy group traveled on a mission to Poland and Israel, who joined 18,000 participants from all over the world on the March of the Living, walking from Auschwitz to Birkenau in order to demonstrate that despite the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish people are alive and thriving.

Last week, dozens of women representing the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Women’s Philanthropy group traveled on a mission to Poland and Israel, which was co-chaired by Robin Batoff and Julie Gubernick. Our women joined 18,000 participants from all over the world on the March of the Living, walking from Auschwitz to Birkenau in order to demonstrate that despite the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish people are alive and thriving. Before joining the march, mission participants spent time in Warsaw and Krakow, learning about the vibrant Jewish life that preceded the Nazi reign of terror in Poland. We visited the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a new museum that tells the story of Polish Jewish life. Our guide took us through the Warsaw Jewish cemetery and taught us about the Jewish community by looking at the inscriptions on gravestones going back hundreds of years. We traveled to Krakow to visit the old Jewish quarter, which gave us even more insight into the lives our ancestors led.

We were also inspired by initiatives taking place within the Jewish community today. We met with representatives from the JCC in Krakow and learned there are over 600 people who are members of this organization. In addition, we met with leaders of the Warsaw Moishe House, a program that provides Jewish experiences and education for young adults. The Jewish Federation supports the Moishe House in Warsaw, and we are proud to host a Moishe House in Philadelphia, as well.


During our trip, we were honored to be accompanied by Anneliese Nossbaum. Anneliese survived the Holocaust, enduring time at Auschwitz and other camps. Anneliese lost her family during the Holocaust; she returned to Poland for the first time, with her daughter and granddaughter, in order to bear witness with her own testimony in the place where these losses occurred. It was our privilege to join Anneliese in saying Kaddish for her loved ones and to serve as witnesses to her testimony. We were all moved and inspired by the dignity and strength Anneliese demonstrated throughout the journey through Poland.

We left Poland in order to fly to Israel. After staying up all night, we arrived in Israel exhausted and emotionally drained from our experiences in Poland. We arrived in Israel on a Friday, which allowed us time to visit the Kotel, spend time in the shuk and prepare ourselves for Shabbat. We spent Shabbat resting, eating and enjoying one another’s company. Our guide took us on a walking tour of the old city, which gave us insight into the complexity of the political and religious issues that swirl around Jerusalem.

Our last day in Israel was spent in the southern part of the country. We started with a visit to Beer Sheva and the Philadelphia Orr Shalom house for the dedication of the Cis Golder Healing Garden. The Jewish Federation  has worked with Orr Shalom for almost a decade. We are proud of this wonderful organization that provides supportive, family-style group homes for Israeli children at risk. Upon leaving Orr Shalom, we traveled to our partnership region, Netivot/S’dot Negev. While there we learned about creative placemaking and healthy living in the region. We topped off the day with a celebration of Netivot’s 60th anniversary and 20 years of our partnership with the region.

This was a truly incredible and inspiring trip this group will never forget. Friendships were made that will last a lifetime, and memories were made to be passed along from generation to generation.

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