Aviva In Poland

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Snow Continues to Fall...

The snow continues to fall and life in Warsaw is continuing despite it all. Things in Warsaw are very busy with work, sorting out the washing machine saga and with starting to look into my future as I am realizing that my work in Warsaw will one day end.

I have been swamped preparing Purim programs. I am laughing again at the fact that a one day holiday has turned into a week of programs, but what I am working on is great. I will tell you briefly and next week share how it all turned out. My office(the Volunteer Centre) has mobilized the community and we are working with them, the school and the youth to organize the purchasing of products, packing and delivery of Mishloach Manot(Purim Packages) to over 200 Seniors who are community members and our clients. It is an incredible amount of work, organzing list of seniors and calling them, recruiting additional volunteers(including the Lauder school students), shopping for it all and making sure that it will be a nice experience for the volunteers and the seniors receiving the packages. My nightly shopping at Carefour(our local Walmart) has become a laughable experience and figuring out if it is wiser to include vitamins or pill boxes in the packages-it is for seniors, in addition to how many hamentashen can be baked. This project is emphasizing the community building work which is so important.

In addition to that I am planning the Senior Club Purim party-we will be decorating masks and those premade masks don't exist in Warsaw, so I am becoming a good mask cutter outer. And finally I am working on a new program idea-we have a group of people that we assist called our "Families in Need Program" and for Purim I have pushed a new idea, to bring the children who live in Warsaw and the area to the youth programming which they have not been exposed to, and before that, to come to a special hamentashen baking party at my apartment. So the parents and children will have a full day and I am hoping that programming like this can continue and happen in other cities as well.

Sooo it is very busy and in the middle of these days I am spending time taking lunch to an old woman who used to come by for English lessons but has gotten very sick. I am so happy to be seeing her and visiting with her for a bit. Winter here is hard, I have been gone for a long time and I am so busy. But spending half and hour (and the 1hour trek)with my Josephina amidst it all is a great refreshing breath and really warms my heart. She is the kindest wisest woman and the illness that her and her husband are dealing with is so sad. I will share with you the sweetest thing-despite what they are sick wtih she wanted to go for a short walk with me so she put on her shoes with a shoe horn and since she cant bend, he appeared there the moment she was ready and tied her shoes for her, it was the sweetest thing to see.

Next will be the test of our ability to accomplish big things and pull these programs that we have put so much into. I am looking forward to a weekend with my first visitor to Warsaw, my friend Mollie a fellow JSC volunteer who is spending the year in Kiev. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I will share at the end of it all how the programs went and maybe one day I will be able to also share that I have a working washing machine
Sending warm hugs from Warsaw

Monday, February 12, 2007

And You Want to Tell Me there are No Jews in Poland....

Dear Friends Family and Readers

I was surrounded by 200 of Polish Jews for Shabbat and another 300 for an incredible day on Sunday. This weekend marked the opening of the Yeshivah in Lublin, marking the first time that there was a Yeshivah there since before the war. The Yeshivah space was returned to Polish Jewsish Community in 1997 and has been recently renovated. All of these fun details are placed in varies news stories on the net which you really should read about. What is not found in the articles in the incredible spirit and energy that those of us there felt. Arriving Friday for Shabbat and participating in Kabalat Shabbat with over 150 in synagouge that hadn't seen that many Jews in that space for over 60 years is incredibly moving. Throughout Shabbat, my dear friends Tal and Osnat(2 volunteers from Israel) and I brought an abundance of energy singing and life to the group of Polish Jews who were so enthralled by the experience. There was singing, dancing learning, neighbourhood tours and eating during Shabbat. The media was all over the moving Havdallah Service which was followed by all of the women lighting big candles and filling all the rooms in the 3 story building, symbolizing the fact that the lights are back in the Yeshivah.

Sunday morning brought an additional 300 people for the official opening of the Yeshivah.It was very cool seeing the community leaders unveil the sign, the bringing of the Torah and people of all ages feeling very proud to be standing at the event. Everyone present felt the hope for continued growth and revival of Jewish life in Poland. Having been a part of this community for almost 6months, you appreciate the smallest things-a big group of people showing up for a senior club program, a new person wanting to volunteer in the community, a child learning the words to a song you taught them-and so seeing something so big and so important for the Polish Jewish Community is really incredible. No one knows the future of Jewish Communities anywhere but seeing an event like this and the pride, energy and hope which filled the Yeshivah, there is no denying that for Jews in Poland there is a future. I am so thankful that I was able to be at the event, to bring my joy and energy to it and to see history and a future taking place.

Have a wonderful week
Love from Warsaw

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Almond Tree Is Blooming...

Dear Friends Family and Readers

The Almond Tree Is Blooming..while not quit yet but I certainly did celebrate TuBishvat and sang the song "Hashkaidiah Porachat" which means the Almond tree is blooming several times in the past week and half marking how I have celebrated TuBishvat in Poland. For a place where the sun doesn't shine very often, unless of course you are willing to make your own and share(think about how you would do that) I certainly sang about sun, new growth and talked about the history of the holiday a lot.
At the Sarvasz follow up that I wrote about last time, we had a lovely TuBishavt Sedar filled with all the different kinds of fruits and wine and gave a group of 14-16 year olds an oppurtunity to celebrate TuBishvat in a way that they have never done before.
Fast Forward one week and come you will come to this past Friday night where we had a group of University Students gather together in our New Youth Club for a Shabbat Dinner and of course a TuBishvat Sedar. We enjoyed the addition of Rabbi Goldberg who added his thoughts and with this group we had some more singing which was really very nice.
For my last TuBishvat celebration I organized a special program in the Senior Club. We spoke and shared thoughts on TuBishvat, ate dried fruits, I taught them the song "Hashkediah Porachat" which they loved and then the 15 of us all planting seeds together. We did not venture outside in the snow but we did plant flower seeds in cups which we will all take of and water regularly in the senior club, bringing new life into a place with older souls. There is something very special about planting seeds and celebrating new growth with a group of very old, yet very new and curious people. So as I am laughing that I have never celebrated TuBishvat more often then I did here but in all seriousness it was really wonderful to bring new ideas, some new life and some more hope to a community that is in the process of reviving.

Sending warmth and hopes for continued growth in communities all over the World

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter in Warsaw

Dear Family Friends and Readers

It is finally winter in Warsaw. As soon as I landed from Israel last week it started to snow and it got super cold-that is ok because I have all my warmest winter clothes and my apartment could even be said to be too warm.

Things have been pretty busy since I have landed, I am working on a lot of TuBishvat Programs, taught a cooking class and helped out at a Sarvasz(International Jewish Summer Camp) weekend retreat. The retreat brought young teenagers from all over Poland together for a long weekend of Jewish Programs, Dance Parties and the oppurunity to for all the campers to reconnect!

In addition to the work I have been struggling to maintain my sanity amidst the insanity of my apartment. You may remember reading a while back about th fuse blowing and the broken washing machine. While...this week brought even more apartment adventures. I went to put just 4 dishtowels in the machine and could not focus on the Friends episode I was watching because of the horrible sounds the machine was making. When I went to investiagate I found a very overheated machine(why I have no idea) that was also stuck. In my attempt to unstick the machine I got my fingers caught, I did get them out but my hands are not a pretty sight-I hope you are not laughing too hard cause this gets more insane. I called my dear friend over to help and we attempted one more time to start the machine, this time when we did that it started smoking-dont worry we unplugged it fast and we are fine. At this point the landlady is called and her very Polish mother came over to investigate. Amidst her investigation she turned the machine on-even though I really tried to explain to her not to, but there is that whole language problem, soo she did and it started flooding everywhere. The machine will be repaired soon I hope and in the meantime I will be using my friends washing machine. If this story is not enough for one week, I have more. I woke up this morning and there was no water, apprently in several apartments on my street this is the case and no one knows when it will return, my dad hopes by his visit in April and I hope by the time I get home from work!

I hope you are all doing well and starying warm
I will write all about the Seniors planting seeds for TuBishvat next week-Im sure it will be fun
Warm Hugs from Warsaw