Winter Break In Poland

From December 28 – January 4 Penn State Hillel, with a partnership with Aish Penn State, another Jewish group on campus, took 26 students to travel around Poland to learn about its history – from its beginning in the 1300s thru World War II and the Holocaust specifically. In just under a week, students visited the cities of Warsaw, Lublin, Tarnow, Krakow, and Lodz. Accompanied by a tour guide from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum located in Jerusalem, students toured some of our history’s darkest places – labor camps, death camps, and unmarked graves. We also had the opportunity to look at the vibrant life that thrived in Poland, be it in synagogues across the country, beautiful historic cemeteries, or in growing Jewish cities like Krakow. The trip was intense and introspective, and students and staff alike left with a firmer understanding of what Jewish life looked like in Eastern Europe, and with a steadfast commitment to building Jewish life back here at State College.
“The time that I spent in Poland with Penn State’s Aish and Hillel was a once in a lifetime eye-opening experience that has surely brought me closer to Judaism in many ways. Being given the opportunity to travel throughout Poland alongside my fellow Jewish students and rabbis made the experience even better and more meaningful. The group witnessed firsthand many of the sights and places where the Jewish people endured some of the greatest barbarism humanity has even known. This trip I will surely remember for the rest of my life. Although it is inevitable that this trip can and most likely will bring on unwanted feelings of sadness and even disgust, what one can take away from this trip is a true understanding of why it is so important to hold on to one’s Jewish heritage, tradition, and identity, and to always make sure these things are passed on from generation to generation. The trip really impacted me on so many levels, but it especially enlightened my pride in being a Jew. Throughout the history of our people, we have been persecuted and victimized but we always prevail and come out even stronger.” – Lee Cohen, ’16