Stepping into Our Past: A Women’s Journey to Poland


While pursuing graduate degrees at Penn State University, Yonat Nagler and her husband connected with the local Jewish community and experienced Jewish life outside of Israel.

“In Israel, it’s easy to be Jewish,” said Yonat. “But, I realized that outside of Israel, I needed to take an active role in my Jewish identity.”

As an Israeli participant on MOMentum, Yonat found it inspiring to see women from all over the world engage with Israel and Jewish values. She wanted to find a way to help her JWRP sisters maintain their powerful feelings and to pass it down to their children. Because the group travel experience was so impactful, Yonat decided to create a similar experience. But this time, the group would travel to Poland.

While participating in the Momentum Fellowship, Yonat developed “Jewish Women Heritage: Meet Our Past, Create Our Future,” an independent heritage trip to Poland for women. The trip, which is set for October, includes an exploration into the daily life and culture of Jewish communities in Poland prior to World War II.

The group will study the history of Hitler’s rise to power and how the Holocaust unfolded. They will explore Krakow and Warsaw, two cities that once had flourishing Jewish communities; visit concentration camps; and participate in memorial ceremonies throughout the country. They will also meet with individuals who are building modern-day Jewish communities in Poland.

“Jewish people once lived full Jewish lives in Poland and they would never have imagined the Holocaust happening,” said Yonat. “It’s important that we remember what our Jewish communities experienced so that we can ensure that it never happens again.”

Today, Israeli teens travel to Poland with their senior high school classes. Yonat’s husband, who lost many relatives in the Holocaust, traveled to Poland with a contingent from the Israeli Army.

“When his group marched into Auschwitz together, they felt so strong. They felt as though they could prevent something like this from ever happening again,” said Yonat. “We need to see what happened and we need to share it with our families, our communities, and the world. By learning about our past, we will be able to create a path for our future.”

To explore educational resources about the Holocaust, visit Yad Vashem and the USC Shoah Foundation.

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