Touring Jewish Life, Literature and Learning in Poland (July 15—21, 2024)
Guides: Dr. David I. Bernstein & R. Jeffrey Saks
Travel with Agnon House to Poland — the greatest center of Ashkenazic Jewish life for centuries and the site of its near-total annihilation. Encounter the places and texts that shaped so much of Jewish experience from the medieval era through the crises of the 20th century, and discover the surprising revival of Jewish life today. Travel in the footsteps of the classical Torah scholars and the modern Jewish literature that sprang from the places we will visit — including S.Y. Agnon’s classic “Stories of Poland.” Study these texts, tales, and ideas with our outstanding scholars and guides. All tours and lectures in English.
Cost with roundtrip flights from/to Tel Aviv: US $3,590.00 person/double room.
Cost (without flights): $3,095.00 person/double room
(Additional $375.00 for individual in private room).
For general inquiries or more information contact Jeffrey Saks at tel. or WhatsApp +972-52-321-4884 / [email protected]. Full-board kosher catering (LORs and/or Chabad) and Shabbat-appropriate itinerary / Top quality hotels in best locations / Expert scholars and guides / Space limited! See cancellation policies and important travel insurance info.
Monday, July 15: LOT #152 depart Ben-Gurion Tel Aviv at 5:05am – arrive Warsaw Chopin Airport at 8:00am.
Sunday, July 21: LOT #151 depart Warsaw at 11:10pm – arrive Tel Aviv on Monday, July 22 at 4:05am.
View the itinerary on Google Maps
Day 1 | Monday, July 15 | 9 Tammuz
Early morning arrival in Warsaw — until 1939 the largest Jewish community in Europe. Visit the vast Jewish cemetery, the resting place of a quarter-million Jews, for an encounter with the diversity of Polish Jewish life, reflecting the many varied responses to modernization: revered rabbis, celebrated Yiddish poets and writers, and simple Jews whose names do not appear in history books. We will see many remarkable gravestones, with images and poems that tell the stories of the deceased. Then on to the magnificent POLIN Museum of the History of the Jews in Poland (awarded “Best Museum in Europe” 2016), whose exhibit tells the story of more than 900 years of Jewish life in Poland.
After checking into our hotel and time to rest and refresh, we head out for a walking tour of the Warsaw Ghetto area, including the famous Rappaport Monument; Mila 18, site of the headquarters of the ZOB, the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Ghetto; and several monuments to heroes of the ghetto period. Dinner with the Chief Rabbi of Poland, R. Michael Schudrich, who will tell us about the remarkable revitalization of the community since the fall of Communism. Overnight: Warsaw.
Day 2 | Tuesday, July 16 | 10 Tammuz
A scenic drive takes us to the shtetl of Tykocin, which the Jews, who made up a majority of the town, called Tiktin. The shtetl features a Baroque-style synagogue, built in 1642, where Jews prayed for hundreds of years, and a delightful old-world market square. A short drive brings us to the Lupuchowa Forest, where the 400-year-old community met its tragic end. We will then spend time encountering the Shoah at Treblinka, one of three death camps built by the Nazis for “Operation Reinhard,” the destruction of most of Polish Jewry in 1942-43. While nothing remains of the original camp – it was destroyed by the Nazis as part of Holocaust denial while the atrocities were still being committed – we will stand in remembrance at the evocative memorial of 17,000 stones. Overnight: Dinner and overnight in Warsaw.
Day 3 | Wednesday, July 17 | 11 Tammuz
On to Lublin, a city that was once one-thrid Jewish and center of Jewish printing houses. We will learn in the Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, founded by R. Meir Shapira, creator of the “Daf Yomi” project (today’s Daf is Bava Batra 22). Stop by at the old Grodzka Gate and the NN Theatre, originally an avant-garde theatre group that took over a slum, they became fascinated by the local Jewish history and are now the major research center and resource for the history of Jewish Lublin. Another scenic drive to the charming town of Lancut, where we will have our dinner and spend the night.
Day 4 | Thursday, July 18 | 12 Tammuz
Waking in Lancut, we take a short walk to the restored 18th-century shul, and add our voices to the centuries of Lancut Jews who prayed there. From there a short ride to Markowa, a small village where we will visit the farm of a Polish family who hid Jews and paid the ultimate price, and discuss the complexity of Polish-Jewish relations, including pogroms and collaboration in the Final Solution. Drive to Tarnow, a city that was 50% Jewish before the war, for a walking tour including a Bima that remains from the Alta Shul, built in the 1600s. Visit Zbylitowska Gora, site of both Polish and Jewish mass graves, including the grave of 800 Jewish children. Then it’s on to Krakow where we will be based for the duration of our tour.
Day 5 | Friday, July 19 | 13 Tammuz
This day brings us to the emotional encounter with Auschwitz-Birkenau, site of the largest death camp as well as the largest slave labor camp in the Nazi system.
Return to Krakow for Shabbat preparations, prayers, and dinner.
Day 6 | Shabbat, July 20 | Parashat Balak
Optional morning services with the local community, followed by Kiddush and lunch and a walking tour of Kazimierz, the heart of Jewish Krakow, and its extant synagogues and other sites. Study session on the giants of Polish Jewish learning and literature. Following an afternoon rest (well deserved!) we set out on another tour of the Wawel Castle, home of the Polish kings. Closing out Shabbat with some time to study about the giants of Polish Jewish learning and literature, and an opportunity to process some of what we have been encountering. After Shabbat: Optional nighttime tour of the Krakow Old Town.
Day 7 | Sunday, July 21 | 15 Tammuz
We begin our final day by visiting the 16th-century Rama Synagogue. The nearby cemetery represents the Golden Age of the Jews in Poland, where we will visit the graves of the outstanding figures of Polish learning and leadership. Proceeding in Krakow, we will visit the first Teachers’ Seminary of the Beis Yaakov movement, founded by Sara Schenirer, a pioneer in Jewish women’s education. Outside of Krakow we take a scenic drive to Sanz (Nowy Sacz), a shtetl famous for the Hasidic dynasty and its many offshoots. Travel to Warsaw for 11:10pm return flight—arrive Tel Aviv on Monday early morning, July 22.
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the Director of Research at the Agnon House and founding director of ATID and WebYeshiva.org; Series Editor, S.Y. Agnon Library at the Toby Press; and Editor of the journal Tradition. He has published widely on Jewish culture and learning (sample here), and has been leading traveling seminars for years in Israel and to locations such as Greece, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Portugal.
Dr. David I. Bernstein, the Dean Emeritus of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, previously served as the director of Midreshet Lindenbaum, and was the director of informal education at the Ramaz Upper School in New York, where he pioneered an integrated world and Jewish history curriculum. Over the last 25 years, he has served as the historian-guide for more than 60 groups on Jewish heritage tours throughout Europe with a special focus on Poland.
Catering & Logistics: Elyakim & Tzippi Italie. Travel arrangements by Yehuda Chen and Shai Bar-Ilan Tours.
Please check that your passport is valid for 6 months from the date of departure! Israeli, USA, Canada, UK and EU passport holders do not require travel visas for Poland. Citizens of other countries should check visa requirements.
For general inquiries or more information contact Jeffrey Saks: tel. or WhatsApp +972-52-321-4884 / [email protected]
Praise from participants on Agnon House tours (Ukraine 2018; Lithuania 2019; Central Europe 2022; Portugal 2023; Germany 2023):
“Transformative! Above and beyond other trips we’ve taken — like two university semesters in 9 days!” “Eye-opening and educational.”
“A good balance between general history, Jewish history, and related literature. It was very evident that the trip was well thought out in advance and it was executed beautifully.”
“I loved the variety of historical, literary, secular and religious sites and sources. It reflected the diversity and vitality of Jewry at that time and place.”
“ ‘Very Good’ is not good enough to describe the guides. Each of them exhibited vast knowledge and exceptional speaking and teaching ability. [Their] enthusiasm, warmth, helpfulness, and expertise was delightful.”
“We were delighted by the exceptional comradery of all our fellow participants—such an interesting, intelligent, kind, and friendly group of people from diverse backgrounds coming together in such a special way really enhanced the trip. We’ve made great new friends and will remain in close touch.”
“The meals and accommodations were far above our expectations.”
“We were thrilled with the tour leaders because of their knowledge and teaching skills, the way they cared for each person in the group, and their good humor and amiable personalities. Mixing with such an eclectic and friendly group of fellow travelers made for a wonderful journey.”
Insurance: It is strongly recommended to purchase comprehensive insurance to cover medical, personal, baggage, and cancellation. COVID: Consult with a physician to determine if a COVID booster is recommended for you before traveling. Note that all hotels, flights, and itinerary arrangements are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. The itinerary may be impacted by unexpected flight-schedule changes by the airline. If necessary, all efforts will be made to substitute accommodations with equivalent quality. See cancellation, refund, and insurance information here.