I live in the geographical and demographical heart of the Los Angeles Jewish community. I am growing up in the twenty-first century. I go to a Jewish high school. I take for granted the luxuries of being able to practice my religion freely and never think twice before wearing a kippah (yarmulke) on the streets of metropolitan LA.
On Sunday, I’ll be flying to Poland to explore what Jewish life was like in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, and what it’s like now. Given the background the I described above, I’m sure that it will be difficult to relate or put myself into the shoes of another teenage Jew who wasn’t as lucky as I am. I’ll walk through Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz-Birkenau trying to picture what that same setting felt like in 1943– the defenseless inhabitants, the hate-filled disciplinarians, the repugnant smells, the somber sounds, the merciless aura. I have no idea what I’ll feel, taking in the sensation of what it may have been like not to be able to “be” Jewish.
After a week and a half, I’ll head to Israel (for six weeks) and soak up Jewish culture and life. It’s difficult for me to write about what I will do, or will feel. So I’m going to leave it open ended. I’ll write about it all when I’m there and post the pieces when I’m back. I’ll give you my thoughts on the political situation after talking to Israelis– and hopefully Palestinians– about it.