Though much of work of Jewish Federation of Orange County seeps seamlessly into the private stories of the individuals and families we assist, sometimes the ripple effect of our work sings loudly for us. When I am rewarded with powerful impact stories made possible through the work of Federation, it is important to share them with you. Your continued support of Federation is directly responsible for this critical impact.
This year, Jewish Federation, through its Passport to Jewish Life program, provided more than $38,000 in scholarships to 84 Orange County children and teens to participate in identity-building Jewish summer programs. Among them were five teens, members of Orange County’s Shevet Tapuz Israel Scouts chapter, who earlier this month joined peers from Israel for a weeklong Holocaust education trip to Poland. Together with their madrichim and educators, they visited Nazi death camps and the remains of the Warsaw and Krakow ghettos. They learned about Poland’s vibrant Jewish life before the war, and the destruction of Jewish civilization by the Nazis and their collaborators. They explored their identity as Jews and as citizens of the world and contemplated deep educational questions that will shape the adults they will become.
One of the most poignant moments of the trip took place in Tykocin, a small town two hours north of Warsaw. Jews first came to Tykocin after being exiled from Spain in the 1500s. They built a beautiful synagogue in 1642 and Jewish life flourished for over 400 years. In August 1941, the Nazis arrived in Tykocin. They rounded up the Jews in the town square and murdered them in the nearby forest over the course of three days. Their mass grave remains a memorial to the victims. Only 150 of the town’s 2000 Jews survived the operation.
With Tykocin empty of Jews, the old synagogue has been turned into a small museum. What was once the hub of Jewish meeting, prayer, learning and celebration is now a place of silence. But on a sunny afternoon last week, the voices of the 200 Jewish teens on the Scouts trip filled the synagogue once again with Hebrew song from Psalms 34.
It was a transformative moment in these young people’s Jewish journeys, connecting past and present in a way they will never forget.
Click here to watch the video.
Translation of Lyrics: Who is the man who desires life, and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it.
These are the moments that Jewish Federation was built for. When you make a gift to Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign, you provide the next generation with experiences that inspire them to celebrate their Jewishness today and tomorrow.
Please make your gift to Jewish Federation today.
May the memory of the Jews of Tykocin and all of the victims of the Holocaust be a blessing.
With gratitude for the honor of serving as your Board Chair, I wish you a Shabbat shalom.
Video and photo provided by Lisa Armony, Jewish Federation of Orange County Chief Impact Officer and Rose Project Director, who chaperoned this trip.