I am sitting in the air terminal waiting to go to Poland about LOT Airlines. I am looking around and seeing many Hassidic Jews and wondering why they are going to Poland—perhaps on a mission? I look closely at some of them, and I see the Hassidish profile—the beard, the payis, the look of intention. I go immediately in my mind to the beautiful culture that cut down in its prime. I see these religious Jews going to Poland to support perhaps their brothers and sisters or possibly teaching at the few synagogues that remain. And then I hear the Israeli accent over the loudspeaker--"flight so and so to Tel Aviv is available for boarding." I wake up from my stupor to realize that the Hassidism I thought was returning to the birthplace of their movement was flying to the land of hope and life.
What was I doing sitting in the lounge, preparing to board the plane to Poland? A place where Yiddish phrases hung in the air like the alluring smell of honeysuckle--but not today. Where Jews walked to shul and Shabbes was strictly upheld--but not today. Where men in their Shabbes best sung Ashes Chayil to their brides. But today, Jews still live in Poland. They are not living in the past. They are not living in the shadows of what was, but in the spotlight of what could be. That's what I am doing here in the Polish Airlines lounge. I LOVE Israel--but I have also come to work in the land where my dad was born, where generations of my family lived their lives. I want to give Jews the opportunity to enjoy and love our tradition as much as I do. After the terror, after communism, Jews realize their Jewish Heritage tours and festivals are not about "those people," but about them. They need our help. We help communities all over the world to make Judaism a way of life. What happened to the source? The very place that gave birth to the most outstanding scholars, rabbis, artists, writers in Jewish history, why aren't we there to light a fire. Create a spark. Why?
I board in a little over an hour. I am already tired--my canceled flight this morning, forcing me to take non-direct flights that were consistently late. But I did get to see my son Jacob, and it was a great machaya!!