Month: June 2017

Reflections on Heritage

My grandmother always told me growing up that souls evolve, that personalities move from generation to generation. It’s a concept called Gilgul, like reincarnation, that’s more prevalent in some parts of Judaism than others. My grandparents are Yiddish, and Gilgul is prominent in Yiddish folklore. I was always told that I was my Grandma Bebe, who passed away shortly before I was born. We both had a flair for the dramatics, apparently.

So as I walked through much of Poland, I couldn’t help but think, have I been here before?

Has some version of me, or my family, walked the streets of Krakow? The Danielowicz? The Katz? The Gingolds? Where in Auschwitz did my ancestors stand? We know so much about my family history, and yet we also know so little.

It sounds odd, but the entire trip was like a memory that I’ve never had, a dream that I can’t quite place. The chicken noodle soup on the first night tasted so much like my mom’s that I was instantly transported back to my tonsillectomy over spring break. The Klezmer music sounded like every wedding and Bar Mitzvah I’ve ever attended. When they played the Hava Nagila, I wanted to get up and dance. Last weekend, I danced the Hava Nagila at my aunt’s wedding and thought back so fondly on our trip.

This trip was such a life changing experience. Not only did I learn so much about history, about the Renaissance and the Holocaust, but I learned a lot about myself. I made incredible friends. Even during the hardest times of the trip, walking around places like Treblinka and Auschwitz and sobbing, I always thought back to how beautiful these places were, and how nature will always reclaim the horrors of humanity.

Perhaps the best example of how incredible this trip was was who I met at Auschwitz. In a place that sees thousands of visitors daily, thousands of miles from home, I ran into my second cousins on my mom’s side.

They live in North Carolina. I live in Georgia. We met for the first time in a courtyard between barracks in the worst place on earth.

They took me out to dinner that night, and it was my first time on my own abroad, navigating public transit and finding practical strangers in a busy square. We sat at a restaurant and talked for hours and hours about how the food reminded us of our Great Grandmother’s, and about our genealogy. We talked about our love of history, and how we were learning so much about our own. We talked about Poland, and how we wished our grandparents and parents were here with us.

It was a surreal evening and a surreal trip. I’ll never forget it.

Also, I ate so much apple cake. That was pretty awesome too.

Zoe Katz ’19

My cousin Pam and I.

Elinor Reid Hightower Trip Reflection

This trip was very important for me for several reasons. It was amazing to travel out of the country again after so many years. I learned quite a bit, but it was also incredibly helpful to see these places in person after reading and learning about them previously. Auschwitz especially. It was almost surreal to stand in a place I had read so much about  for so long and never dreamed I would ever actually get to see.

I have been trying to decide what my favorite part was, but we saw so many amazing things it is hard to pick just one. The first castle we visited in Warsaw was one of my favorites. I’ve always loved castles in general, but seeing all the details and furnishings that remain was amazing. I also liked that I was given the opportunity to explore it on my own. Some places need guided tours, but this one was better to take in by myself.

The last castle was another favorite. I never learned much about the crusades in school, so having the chance to see that history in person was incredible.

As for cities, Krakow was my favorite stop. Partly because our tour guide was amazing, and partly because we were in a better part of town than before, but also the freedom we were given to explore on our own and the places we visited were some of my favorites. For example, the Lady and the Ermine and the underground ancient city.

Furthermore, despite all the drama that happened, I am so grateful that I had the chance to meet and bond with other amazing scotties. I really needed this time away from my personal life to reconnect with the Scottie community. Sometimes I get so caught up in my relationship with my boyfriend that I forget that I still need friends. This last semester I had really begun to miss having girl friends. This trip gave me the opportunity to forge new friendships.

Without this trip I probably would never have had the chance to visit Poland. Poland has such a rich history that I never knew or thought about. When people think of Poland they think of World War Two and Auschwitz. But, there is so much more to their history and culture. This journey gave us all the opportunity to view Poland from all sides through local food, interactions with local people, and touring through five major cities. We explored all types of transportation and immersed ourselves in the culture. We were guided, but also were given enough freedom to feel like adults. It is an experience I will never forget. I am so thankful for Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Manes. I really can not thank you enough.

Elinor Reid Hightower ’18