Heritage Trip Takes Yeshiva Bochurim to Poland
One hundred high school aged yeshiva bochurim left this evening from New Yorks John F. Kennedy International Airport and will be spending the next five days, not in a beis medrash poring over a Gemara, or on a grassy field playing ball, but on a historical trip to Poland designed to strengthen their connection with their roots.
Accompanying the students on this second annual historical trip will be a group of noted lecturers including Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Rabbi Aubrey Hersh and Rabbi Menachem Nissel as well as eighty five year old Aaron Halpern, an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor, who will return to Auschwitz for the first time since his liberation some seventy years ago.
“While heritage trips to Europe are not a new phenomenon, they are not typically targeted to yeshivos that may be more to the right of Modern Orthodox,” Ari Scharf, founder and director of Project Mesorah, told CrownHeights.CH. “My mission is to get these families to understand the importance of having their children connect with the older generation while they are still here. Survivors are a link to our past, a reminder of what klal yisroel used to be like so many years ago, but they aren’t going to be here forever. We need to forge that connection now.”
Joining the teens, ranging in age between fourteen and seventeen, will be a group of adults eager to visit Poland and Jewish historical sites including the remains of the Warsaw ghetto, the Ger Beis Medrash, Oskar Schindler’s factory and the site of the first Bais Yaakov, as well as visiting the kevarim of R’ Chaim Brisker, the Netziv, the Maharshal, the Noam Elimelech, the Ramah, the Bach and Tosfos Yom Tov. The trip will also include visits to Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau and the group plans to start writing a Sefer Torah in a Shul in Krakow.
“Aaron Halpern will be writing the first letter in that Sefer Torah, which will be a truly meaningful moment,” Rabbi Paysach Krohn told CrownHeights.CH. “Rav Schach has always said that those who are not connected to the past have no hope to be linked to the future. To be able to daven and learn in the Yeshiva Chochmei Lublin, to daven by the kever of R’ Elimelech is a life changing experience and a wonderful thing for both the boys and the adults who are taking part in this trip.”
“Our program is designed to complement what is being taught in the yeshivos,” explained Scharf. “We may have wonderful Rabbeim in our yeshivos but for many of them, Jewish history is just not their forte. By educating children about their past, we teach them a lot about themselves and their families.”
“We want our children to look at the survivors and recognize that they are our true heroes,” said Scharf. “That is what Project Mesorah is all about: connecting our past to our future.”