YOU ARE INVITED to a study trip in Poland, formerly the home of the largest Jewish community in the world.
Join us as we embark on an in-depth study tour of this once vibrant Jewish society that flourished in Poland for almost 1,000 years.
Our tour will take us through a wide swath of eastern and southern Poland,
from Warsaw to Bialystok
and from Lublin to Krakow.
We will visit medieval cities, castles and churches to better understand the historical context of the Polish Jewish experience.
In the process we will learn about the precarious Polish geo-political position in Europe, the role of the Catholic Church and its changing relationship with the Jewish people.
This is a study tour, although there will be time set aside for reflection, discussion and daily worship.
If you are interested in learning more about the Jewish people by looking at the history of one of their most important spiritual and cultural centres, join us for 12 fascinating days in Poland.
Topics covered will include:
the culture of the shtetl
(small Jewish town)
Jewish reactions to the Enlightenment, Socialism and the arrival of Zionism.
We will not ignore the traumatic events of two world wars and will devote a considerable portion of our time to discussing the “Final Solution”.
We will use Christopher Browning’s important book Ordinary Men to follow the footsteps of Reserve Police Battalion 101. Browning’s work will help us understand why and how so many “ordinary” Germans became willing accomplices in a genocide which murdered 90 percent of Poland’s 3 million Jews.
We’ll also touch on
the occult roots of Nazism
Hebrew Christian communities that existed before World War II
modern Jewish messianism from Shabbtai Zvi to Theodor Herzl, and from the Holocaust to the State of Israel
Jewish life today when visiting active synagogues and community centers.
Cost and registration
€1675 (euros) per person
Price will include half board, double occupancy in three/four star hotels, entrance fees, and transportation.
Travel to and from Poland, lunches, insurance and tips are not included.
We must have 20 paying participants to make the tour viable.
Day 1 – Mon, July 16: Arrival in Warsaw Tour begins at 14:00 with a survey of Warsaw city sites. We will explore the city and come to a better understanding of Polish history and the political and cultural context of what was once the largest and most important Jewish city in the world. Overnight in Warsaw.
Day 2 – Tues, July 17: Warsaw
We will discover something about Jewish life before the war by visiting the Jewish cemetery and the only functioning synagogue in Warsaw. We will also visit Polin, the new, stunning museum of Jewish life. In the afternoon we turn our attention to the tragic events that took place during World War II while visiting sites in the Jewish ghetto. At the Jewish Historical Museum we learn of the activities of Emmanuel Ringelblum and see something of his famous archive that chronicled every aspect of life in the Warsaw ghetto. Time permitting we will also find out what happened to Warsaw’s small Hebrew Christian community during the years of the Nazi occupation. Overnight in Warsaw.
Day 3 – Wed, July 18: Treblinka
We travel to Bialystock. On the way, we will read stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer as we pass by his home town of Radzimim. At the Treblinka death camp we will discover the fate of the Jews of Warsaw. We continue heading east to the beautiful town of Tykocin, the Pearl of the Baroque. We visit the best-preserved Baroque synagogue of the period and take a peek at what is left of the town’s Jewish cemetery. Time permitting, we will compare the architecture of the synagogue to a Baroque church in the area. At Bialystock we will recount the history of the Jewish community here and visit the site of the Great Synagogue, the largest wooden synagogue in Eastern Europe where the Nazis burnt 3,000 Jews alive in 1941. Overnight in Bialystock.
Day 4 – Thur, July 19: Ordinary Men We will start the day with a tour of Jewish Bialystock (once known as Polish Jerusalem) which will take about two hours. We will then proceed south towards Lublin. On the way we recount some of the activities of Police Battalion 101 (a group of middle aged German policemen who played a key role in the murder of the Jewish population of eastern Poland). If time permits we’ll stop at the Parczew Forest where Battalion 101 operated. In Miedzycez, a town that was once 80 percent Jewish, we will recount the life and death of the Jewish community there. If time permits we will visit the town’s neglected Jewish cemetery. On the way to our hotel we stop in Kotz, the hometown of Mendel Morgenstern (the Kotzker Rebbe). Overnight in Lublin.
Day 5 – Fri, July 20: Lublin
In the morning we will discover something of the strategic importance that Lublin played throughout history while admiring its walls, castles and churches. In the late morning we turn our attention to the significant Jewish presence that made the city one of the most important Jewish centers in all of Eastern Europe. We will stop at the Jewish cemetery to see the grave of Rabbi Yitzhak Yaacov, the famed “seer of Lublin,” and visit the synagogue and former yeshiva, one of the most famous in the Jewish world. At the end of the day we will make a brief stop at the Majdanek labor camp. Overnight in Lublin.
Day 6 – Sat, July 21: Sobibor
We leave Lublin and travel north east to Wlodawa where we will view its beautiful synagogue and recount the Jewish history of the town. At Sobibor death camp (one of five in Poland) we will focus on the role of Franz Stangl, a seemingly ethical man who became slowly compromised as a Nazi bureaucrat who oversaw the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews. In the city of Chelm we will discuss the rich folklore associated with the town and recall the tragic Chmielnicki massacres of 1648 to 1669 and the literary contribution of Y. L. Peretz. Overnight in Zamosc.
Day 7 – Sun, July 22: Zamosc
First thing we will walk through Zamosc, one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe. A stunning example of a 16th century Renaissance town, it has retained its original layout and fortifications and a large number of buildings that combine Italian and central European architectural traditions. Before we leave the area we will visit the site of a former Soviet prisoner of war camps — one of many in Poland and the Soviet Union where the Germans starved 4 million Soviet soldiers to death. We will stop at the Belzec death camp and museum and consider the life and activities of Kurt Gerstein, “God’s spy in the SS.” At nearby Jozefow we discuss how Police Battalion 101 was initiated into the “Final Solution”. Time permitting we will visit Bilgorji the town associated with Isaac Bashevis Singer. Overnight in Rzeszow.
Day 8 – Mon, July 23: Galicia.
A change of pace as we travel to Cracow, stopping at the famous village of Zalipie, a center of Polish folklore. In the afternoon we stop at the Bohnia salt mine. It is one of the oldest salt mines in the world with an impressive network of chambers and galleries and the Saint Kinga’s Chapel. Overnight in Cracow.
Day 9 – Tues, July 24: Cracow
We begin the morning walking through the Jewish Quarter of Cracow visiting the Old Synagogue, the cemetery and the Jewish Museum of Galicia. In the afternoon we will visit the Schindler factory, and other sites associated with Oscar Schlindler’s wartime activities in Cracow, such as the Plazow labor camp and the Jewish ghetto. We will discuss Schindler and some of the moral ambiguities of his character. In the afternoon, we will have a guided tour of the Market Square and visit the Church of St. Mary. An evening of Polish mountain folklore. Overnight in Cracow
Day 10 – Wed, July 25: Cracow Continued
In the morning we continue to explore the rich cultural heritage of Cracow and its Jewish history. The afternoon is free for exploring and shopping. Dinner at a Jewish restaurant.
Day 11 – Thurs, July 26: Auschwitz I, II & III
We spend the day in the Auschwitz area. We will have a guided tour of the concentration camp and the Birkenau death complex 3 kilometers away. We also will visit the site where the Buna labor camp stood, one of many around the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Here both Eli Wiesel and Victor Frankl were slave laborers for German chemical firms. We will also visit the nearby Fountain of Tears by Israeli sculptor Rick Wieneke. It is a powerful exhibition described as a dialogue of suffering between the Crucifixion and the Holocaust. Overnight in Lask.
Day 12: Fri, July 27: Zdunska Wola
Travel back to Warsaw, stopping in Zdunska Wola to meet Kamilla Klauzinska, a Polish woman who is recovering the Jewish history of her town. Tour ends in Warsaw that afternoon.
This itinerary is subject to change.
Why you should come
This study tour will help us to be better informed in our prayer life, our witnesses as Christians and our stand against anti-Semitism
Just a few of the themes that we will examine:
For any that care about the future of the Jewish people and their current well being, the study tour will not only help explain recent history but it will help us to somewhat better understand God’s ways with his people – including the church.
Any one interested in the Bible and God’s people Israel will find this experience in Poland to be greatly illuminating. Our trip to Poland tells the second half of the story of the people of Israel. For hundreds of years Poland was the center of Jewish life and today modern Judaism and the State of Israel have been strongly shaped by the Jewish stay in Poland.
The place of tradition – avoiding assimilation into the surrounding culture
What do we learn from people who saved Jewish life – can such values or approaches be taught today?
How to stop a genocide before it gets started
Jewish mysticism, beneficial or gnostic? What is gnosticism?
The role of the covenants and God’s presence in history
The glories and pitfalls of spiritual revival – the Hasidim as an example
The culture of Bible study in Eastern European Jewry and what we can learn from this
The structure of the Jewish community – its values and changing role over the centuries
The connection between anti-Christian paganism and the rise of Nazism
Role of memory and forgiveness after the Holocaust
What is anti-Semitism and why it won’t go away
How anti-Semitism harms the Christian community
No other tour combines the focus on Jewish spirituality and the history of Jewish life (including the Holocaust).
Poland is beautiful country with interesting old cities, wonderful music and delicious food. In comparison to other European countries, it is relatively inexpensive.
It is highly recommended that one read some books from this list before the tour, as these are the source material for the study tour.
Wiesel, Ellie. Night. (published in numerous editions).
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