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Classrooms Without Borders

What our participants have to say...

Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland was extremely powerful and in many ways transformational. It turned out to be one of the most moving trips of my life. I knew that visiting the sites in Poland with a Holocaust survivor, Howard Chandler, would be very difficult emotionally, but its impact was even stronger than I had foreseen. Visiting the camps and the ghettos and hearing Howard’s explanations brought the experience to life in a way that nothing else could. Coupled with our group discussions, the experience helped me move from the abstract to the concrete and feel and visualize what the Jewish community of Europe went through in an unforgettable way. This on-site visit allowed me to identify with those historical events in a way that nothing else could. I was traveling with my son, Ben as well.  Being able to share this with him was very special and the shared experience, difficult as it was, fortified the bond between us.

Dr. Mark Frisch / Duquesne University
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland

I thought the Germany Up Close trip was an extraordinary experience. It has helped me to understand why the Holocaust occurred and how much work we all still need to do to prevent genocide.

Joshua Frank
Germany Close Up

Being in a place of such overwhelming sadness was the hardest part of my participation in Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland. For as challenging as it was to walk in the footsteps of those who had been slaughtered – to see what had become of once proud Polish Jewish communities and imagine what it was for innocents to be forced to step out of a cattle car and be marched straight into a gas chamber – the most difficult thing was to be hopeful in the face of such heartache.

Traveling under the auspices of Dr. Tsipy Gur's Classrooms Without Borders, ours was an intergenerational, interfaith group of forty educators and students, who only one week ago returned from Poland, sight of the worst example of human depravity in historical memory. Just over seventy years ago, the German Army marched across this ancient, beautiful land, systematically tearing asunder the fabric of a nation, killing some 6,000,000 Poles, 3,000,000 of whom were Jews.

There is still a great deal more to be unearthed and revealed, to be sure, but the prevailing discovery the participants of Classrooms Without Borders made is that if one is unwilling to give in to despair, and will expend the effort, there are indeed divine sparks to be found where once an all-but-consuming darkness reigned.

"Where can God be found? Jewish sources ask. Wherever one lets God in, comes the timeless reply. Even in Warsaw, Lublin and Krakow. Even in the presence of the ghettos, gas chambers and crematoria. Even in the face of the memory of the terror that was Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even here. This was the healing, holy takeaway from an otherwise heart-rending journey. Po-lan-ya. Even here, our best hope for the next generation lives.

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Rabbi Aaron Bisno / Senior Rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Squirrel Hill
Poland Personally: A Study Seminar to Poland