Aviva In Poland

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Lovely Lights of Chanukah

Dear Friends Family and Readers
My apologies for not writing sooner. I didn't realize how long it has been but know I promise a good post. When you volunteer with the Jewish Community, Chanukah is up there on one of your busiest times of year and that is how these past weeks have been! Getting ready for Chanukah I wanted to make sure that everyone that I work with has a special way to celebrate. So the plans began and last week my office sent out Chanukah Packets to the over 60 Jewish Famailies in Need that we work with who are scattered throughout the country. The packets had dreidles, Chanukah games and information and small gifts, it was a great project to work on and I know that people who would have no way to celebrate had something. There were other prpeperations but you will read about them through my each candle description!

Candle One
This candle was light at a small retreat centre just outside Warsaw. I had the pleasure of working with the Youth and Education Department to help plan a seminar for upcoming madrichim(counselors) for this upcoming summer camp. This seminar was for new and returning counselors and brought 20 youngens from all over Poland together for a great weekend. So this was the first thing that we did together

Candle Two
This candle was also light at the seminar, it was lit after an incredible Havdallah by the water and at the end of a really amazing day. The group was incredible, hard working, motivating and energetic. They made me feel so lucky to be at such an incredible semiar and to have the oppurtunity to bring a lot of what I have experienced to them and for them to teach me so much. My love for Jewish camping returned and in a very different way. So this candle felt special and it was great to be in room surrounded by so many great people and so many new friends. After we light the candles, we got ready for the Warsaw Community Chanukah Ball which we all went to, and danced the night away at.

Candle Three
Just when I thought it could not get any better it did. The community hosted the third candle in the sqaure by the synangouge. It was a huge ceremoney with speechs by many Jewish leaders, the First Lady and lots of singing. The huge Chanukiyah was lit and the community celebrated together, while sharing our miracle and holiday with the entire city.

Candle Four
Candle four was another special light. There was small party for one of the JOINT departments that I work with. It was at a colleauge(who has become a good friend) home. The gathering was cozy, warm and made me feel lucky to have gotten to know and work with such amazing people in such a short time.

Candle Five
This candle was light with some close friends. We had a good meal and I was surrounded by amazing company. At the holiday time, when I feel like I should be home with my family, but know I can not be I really appreciate the new family I have here.

Candle Six
How could I have Chanuakh without my seniors. They are my people and I wanted to bring and spirit to them and together we had a wonderful party. There were sufganiyot or ponchkees in Polish, latkes, music, Chanukah cards(made at the madrichim seminar) a talk about Chanuak(I even used some Polish) and of course some of my favourite company in Warsaw.

Candle Seven
If you are still reading, you will be happy to hear that I hosted a Chanukah Party too. Every year at University my dearest friends and I hosted a Chanukah Party at our home and I decided that this year, even though I am in Warsaw and not at Queen's I would keep the tradition alive and have a party at my place. Since I have limited(but wonderful space) I kept it to just work people. Work people for me have become my extended family here and it was so great to have them at my apartment, to eat latkes that I made(dont worry no fire) and to make a nice party for them. They have been so amazing and helpful to me and I wanted to do something nice for them. Thats just what it was-warm and nice. They are amazing people and I hope that in every job I have I work with such an amazing group of people.

Candle Eight
I know it has not happened yet but I will be with a family and friend that are just so wonderful and so thoughtful to make sure that I will be filled with warmth for the last light.

So that is what I am doing and how I have spent my time. This blog is filled with mushiness but that is how I have felt this week. I had a holiday that I gave a lot too and that I got a lot from. As it was approaching I was nervous about my programs and nervous about being away from my family. Now that it is over Im so pleased with the work that was done and despite missing my friends and family soooo much I realized that I have created a family here and I am so fortunate to have my colleagues, friends, seniors and community that I feel so close to. My Chanukah miracle is the realziation, hope and knowledge of Jewish life in Poland and the warmth which is within it.
Please Be in touch and enjoy your holidays, family and friends, whoever they are and wherever you may be celebrating
Warm Hugs from Warsaw

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Wonders of Warsaw!

Dearest Family, Friends and Readers

Yesterday officially marked 3 months since I arrived in Warsaw and the past weeks have been so incredible and energizing!

I have been writing for a long time about Mitzvah Week, which took place in the 7 communities that the Social Welfare System works in, was run by the volunteer centre(my office that I share with my wonderful boss) and the idea was to create a program in each community to thank and show volunteer appreciation, promote our work, unite communities and bring everyone together. Our centre created special gifts and diplomas for all volunteers. We sent material about Mitzvot and encouraged the Social Workers to include as much of the community as possible. Events took place on different days throughout the week and I was fortunate to travel to Krakow and Gdansk for their events.

In Krakow the event took place at the senior club, volunteers, seniors, members of the community, the Rabbi and Youth leadership all came. The Social Worker made a presentation, the Rabbi spoke addressing the importance of the work and everyone had a wonderful time.
I returned to Warsaw and left Friday morning to spend Shabbat in Gdansk. Gdansk has a small and truely lovely Jewish Community. Volunteers, seniors and members of the community gathered for Shabbat Dinner. The President of the community addressed the volunteers and expressed gratitude for their work, the Social Worker made a short presentation and I made a speech about the week and the importance of what we do. I even managed a few sentences in Polish! At that dinner which had about 30 people I really felt like I was surrounded by a wonderful family.

I got back to Warsaw late Saturday night and on Sunday we were having the final Mizvah Day program that we had worked very hard on. I was so nervous about numbers, the program, the food-you name it and it went so well. The idea was to bring our volunteers, their clients, the youth, the day school kids, the community leadership and members of the community together for an afternoon to celebrate...and thats just what happened! We had over 50 people, our volunteers brought their clients, the Youth Club kids performed, the Lauder School students sang, the community President Spoke, the Lauder School Director spoke, my boss( the volunteer centre director) presented our volunteers with diplomas and gifts and everyone had a wonderful time. People remained for a long time and enjoyed the wonderful food and company. I felt so inspired by the event. So many different people came together to celebrate doing Mitzvot and so many different people were touched and inspired by the event. I now know that these events are possible. Uniting communites is so important and it is embraced when it is done. There are so many different people, different Jews with different stories, ubringings and values and they are connected to eachother, their Judaism and their roots. Their Jewish lives, past, present and futures are important and embraced and I was fortunate enough to see this first hand and experience the energy and warmth in different communities around Poland.

Sooo that was what I did-this week I took a mini vacation with my friends to Berlin, which was soo much fun. Its wonderful when it only takes 5 hours to get there! Now I am back at work and we are working on plans, for Chanukah, Im going to be attending and planning a training seminar for young counselors(a differnt JDC department-but Im here to do anything) and are making some long term plans and goals for the New Year.
If you are still reading-thank you!
I hope you have a wonderful weekend and Shabbat Shalom!
Sending lots of love and inspiration from Warsaw