For years, NCSY's JOLT (Jewish Overseas Leadership Training) program has sent teens on a summer mission to Poland to relive centuries of Jewish history there and to witness the sites of Jewish destruction, before triumphantly proceeding to Israel to celebrate the rebirth of the Jewish people. (NCSY is the international youth program of the Orthodox Union.) This year, for the first time, it's the adults' turn.
From July 20-28, a period encompassing the Nine Days, the Orthodox Union will cover the same ground as JOLT in a program directed at adults; there will be an Israel extension July 28-August 4, to include Tisha B’Av and Shabbat Nachamu. A target audience, certainly, is the parents of teens who took the JOLT trip in past years.
Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, stated, “For many years, parents have been telling NCSY how much they’d appreciate a similar experience to the one offered to teens through JOLT. This new trip is a wonderful opportunity for adults to get a taste of what their children have been experiencing and a great way to explore their heritage.”
The mission, which includes five-star accommodations, will be led by Stephen J. Savitsky, OU President; Rabbi Steven Weil, OU Executive Vice President-Designate; and Rabbi Mordechai Smolarcik, a former NCSY Regional Director and Director of NCSY JOLT for the past six summers. Rabbi Smolarcik, now the rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue West, has been leading trips to Poland for both teens and adults for the past 13 years.
Mr. Savitsky declared, “We’ve been approached by many people over the years who have asked us to provide a trip to Poland. This historic trip is going to offer the OU family the opportunity to visit and truly understand the devastation caused by the Shoah.”
A special highlight will be the participation of Rabbi Weil, who will assume the position of Executive Vice President of the OU prior to the trip, after his acclaimed years as Senior Rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills and as Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oak Park in suburban Detroit. Rabbi Weil has led numerous groups to Eastern Europe and brings special insight to these journeys.
“What will be unique and distinct about this trip is that we’re going to relive the 600 years of Ashkenazic Jewish history in Poland and the mesorah (tradition) that has shaped and defined the very life breath of Judaism in America and Israel,” declared Rabbi Weil. “This trip is not only about visiting the camps – this will be reliving the past in a way that shaped Jewish history for the past six centuries. Poland was a dominant location of the Jewish people, of their spiritual, religious and intellectual life before the Shoah. This trip will enable us to visualize and re-experience that history, which will give us tremendous insight into who we are today and what our future will be.”
The trip, timed to coincide with the Nine Days (which concludes the traditional three weeks of mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem), will offer participants a view of the churban (destruction) Europe experienced during the years of the Holocaust. Included will be visits to once-illustrious centers of Torah study and flourishing Jewish life such as Krakow, Ger, Lizensk, Lublin, Birkenau, and Treblinka and special stops at the Nozyc Shul, Ramoh Shul, the Schindler Factory, the first Bais Yaakov school, and kevarim (gravesites) of great Torah scholars such as the Sfas Emes, Rav Chaim Brisker, and the Tosfos Yom Tov. For an additional fee, participants will also have the option of using their last day in Poland to take a day trip to a city that is personally meaningful to them; perhaps visiting the city where their mother or father was born.
Space is limited. For further information and to reserve a spot on the trip, contact 212-613-8374 or e-mail PolandMission@ou.org.