The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial –
The Polin Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
Our morning was spent visiting the Polin Museum of the History of the Polish Jews which opened in 2013 on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The word “Polin” in Hebrew means “rest here.” The building is modern and according to my research, was designed by the Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamaki and Imari Lahdelma.
Through interactive exhibits, I learned much I did not know about the Jewish presence in Poland for one thousand years until the Holocaust. Fleeing from persecution in Western Europe, Jews arrived in Poland in the 10th century, invited by the King of Poland who encouraged the economic growth that Jews provided to the community as merchants. While under the protection of the King and Dukes, Jews in Poland fared well, and the 16th century was known as the “Golden Age” as religious tolerance allowed the Jewish culture to flourish. Then the Cossacks attacked, rebelling against the Polish king, and the Jews were then subject to the laws of the Kings of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. All throughout, however, there were tensions between the Jews and the Catholic Church.
I loved seeing the Chuppah from the 15th century, and the candlesticks. I felt connected to the joy and the sadness.
After a lovely lunch at an outdoor cafe, we returned to our hotel to gather our luggage and are now on our way to Radom, which is about an hour and a half southwest of Warsaw. Tonight we will share a Shabbat dinner with other Radom descendants, meeting “landsmen” (as my parents would have referred to other Radomers). I am filled with anticipation, grateful to be together with my two sisters, daughter, niece, and nephew.
On our way to Radom, we traveled a modern highway in a comfortable air conditioned van, a much different experience from the trip in the year 2000, when there was no highway at all, only country roads. Then, we passed peasants leading cows on leashes and roaming dogs. I do remember a stop in a roadside shack that served wonderful coffee!
Our hotel is Radom is modest, but we settled in and joined the Sabbath dinner already in progress. There were about 60 people, Radom descendants from Chicago, the New York area, California, France, and Israel. Many were here, like us, with extended family and the 3rd and even 4th generation. During dinner, a representative from each family spoke about the family legacy.