When I last blogged, I mentioned the end of our second day, and something that happened that was so profound, and so spirit filled, I decided to reserve my description of it, to be the sole focus of this post. It happened in a place called Tycocin. A small village, one of the many in Poland, once filled with Jews and Jewish life, that are now silent. Wiped clean by the evil deeds of the Third Reich. We first visited what was the synagogue there, near the center of town, a remarkable building that, through the better angels of those Christians and others left in the town, has been restored as a museum, and a town center, for concerts and other uses. It looks like a synagogue inside, but it is no longer active, because there are no longer Jews there. I left you there, with a few pictures, in the last blog. There will only be a few pictures in this blog, as I am hoping to do more with the words, and I have to admit, there is no way in words, or pictures, to capture and transmit, the feelings, emotions, and holiness of the experience in that place. But I have to try.

When we left that spot, we headed a few miles out of town, into the forest, and stopped at a little stretch beside the road and walked about 10 minutes into the forest. In the early phases of Hitler’s project to exterminate the Jews, several mobile killing units were devised. In this case, as Rabbit Poupko taught us, “the murders came to the murdered”. In the phases we will see in the days ahead, it will turn around, “the murdered will be brought to the murders”. In that first phase, as it was in this town, the Jewish population was rounded up, and taken to this spot in the Lupuchowo forest, and shot, 2000 men, women, and children, executed by firing squads as they marched up to the pits already dug. This is what awaited us at the end of our walk into the forest.

When we arrived a large group of Israeli high schoolers were already there. We had run across them at several of our stops. They were in another part of the forest, where we could see them, honoring this spot in their way. The Rabbi invited us around one of the few fenced areas in the forest, places they know the remains are present. He told us several stories of the people there, the people of this town, whose earthly resting place we now beheld. He then called on his phone, a person back in Chicago, whose grandparents were among those who died in this place. He put him on speaker phone, and introduced him to us. He then pulled out a ream of paper, which contained all of the names of the people who were murdered on this spot. He asked that each of us pick one name, and say it out loud. And so he spoke a name, and then he handed the paper to the next person, and they spoke a name. As that pack of paper got around the circle and as these names from the past, now brought to life again by naming came around, it was quite noticeable that a large group of the Israeli youth had become quite interested in what we were doing. So, one of our group, took the pack of papers back to them, and asked them to read one name, which many of them did.

When that was finished, the Rabbi was so moved, and he said, when we began, we did not have a minion, because of course, most of us on this trip are Christians, but now, with you in our circle we do. And so the Jewish amongst us, and those Israeli youth, prayed the Kaddish. That ancient prayer of praise and mourning. We were all with them, as we honored the dead here, as we spoke their names, as we kept their memories alive. So much came together in that moment, Christians and Jews together, Jews from Israel, the coming generations. All of us, through language differences, and cultural difference, and religious differences, finding common ground, and standing common ground, to honor those who went before. And then one of our Jewish colleagues read this poem to us, from a person, a fellow Jew, who mourned the loss of this town, from back then, when this all happened.

 

 

 

 

 

In Memory of Ticktin

 

We weep for Ticktin

Forever lost

A Shtetle crushed

At a horrible cost

 

One among many

That did flourish and thrive,

Keeping the Spirit

Of our Torah alive

 

The beautiful Synagogue

Five hundred years old

From the Kopekes of the poor

It was embellished with gold.

 

Forever the din of the Yeshiva

And Cheder are stilled

What brilliant young minds

Were so brutally killed

 

The world was silent

It didn’t even give them a chance,

What a loss to humanity

A Salk, an Einstein, a Bernstein perchance

 

Our own flesh and blood,

Tante, Shvester, Bruder, and Kind.

All gone with Ticktin

All gone with the wind

 

We shall honor your memory

Right here on this Land

A beautiful Synagogue

In your name now does stand.

 

Again shall the voices

Of children be heard

Learning our Torah

Cherishing each word.

 

We shall open the doors

Of our Synagogue wide,

To the joy and the simcha

Of Bridegroom and Bride

 

How precious each

And every Jew should be,

Because Ticktin

We remember thee.

 

Sally Lewis

 

 

We walked slowly, quietly, intentionally, differently, we walked changed, out of the forest.

Blessings,

+Greg