Rabbi's Column May 2019

Yom HaShoah this year will be like no other for 29 members of the TBT community. As you receive this SHOFAR, we will be in Eastern Europe, traveling from Vienna to Prague and then to Krakow and Warsaw. We will dare, with great trepidation, to visit Auschwitz, a place that cries in our souls, a land relegated to yesterday, but a place that is all too real and stands today as a memorial to the millions of Jews who were gassed and slaughtered there.

I invite you all to journey with us, if not physically, then in spirit. Assuming that this SHOFAR arrives at your door on the first of May, then you can imagine that we will already have experienced Jewish Vienna, both the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, the New Jewish Museum and the Stadttempel, built in 1826, and the only synagogue to have survived Kristallnact in 1938. Perhaps most important of all, we will have visited the Jewish community of 2019 and its rabbi, Rabbi Bar Ami, who will share with us the accounts of the thriving Jewish life of the local progressive Jewish community of Vienna.

On May 1st, we travel to Prague where we will spend time in the Old City to visit Prague’s beautiful Alt-New Synagogue, the Pinchas Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue. We will be on the lookout for the Golem, our dear friend who was invented in Prague to protect the Jewish people. We will be in Prague for Yom HaShoah and will note the occasion with a memorial service at the famed Jewish cemetery in the heart of the city.

We will travel from Prague to Poland, arriving in Krakow just in time to celebrate Shabbat. Our Friday night services on May 3rd will be at the Krakow JCC, a bustling and energetic center of Jewish life today. We are grateful to the community for hosting us for Shabbat services and for Shabbat dinner where we will get to sit and mingle with our Jewish counterparts in Krakow.

We pray that our visit with the Krakow JCC sustains us as we then dedicate an entire day to paying homage to the 6 million at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

We spend our last 2 days (May 5 and 6) in Warsaw. We will visit the Jewish Historical Society, the highly-rated POLIN Museum (the New Museum of the History of Polish Jews), and the Warsaw Ghetto.

These visits are sobering – but traveling with treasured synagogue family gives us strength and inspiration. So too does the cultural backdrop of Europe’s beauty – we will begin in Vienna with a Mozart and Strauss musical concert and we will end in Warsaw, the city of Frederic Chopin’s birth, with a magnificent concert of Chopin’s music.

Our tired but fulfilled travelers will be back home midweek, just in time to refresh ourselves and ready ourselves for Shabbat Services back at TBT on May 10.

Rabbi Offner