Reviving Jewish Life in Poland



January 26, 2024

Warsaw has always been my home. I was born here and grew up in and around the city. It’s central to who I am, and serving the Jewish community here has been a foundational part of my life for many years.

Jewish identity in Poland has been hard to preserve. In the aftermath of World War II and Communism, many Jewish families lost their connection to Judaism and the Jewish people. I feel grateful that my family’s Jewish connection was never lost and that I grew up knowing I was Jewish and participating in Jewish holidays and celebrations. 

As a teenager, I started to notice how small the Warsaw Jewish community was, and at the same time, started learning about the vibrant history of the Polish Jewish community before World War II. Thinking about how much our community has gone through in the last century inspired me to attend synagogue and get involved with Hillel. At Hillel, I gained a new perspective on what it means to be part of a Jewish community. Hillel is a place where everyone can spend time together no matter their background. We are all connected because we are one big family.

I also started volunteering for the Warsaw Jewish Community Center and the local American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) chapter. When the war broke out in Ukraine last year, I was offered the chance to go with the JDC to the Ukrainian border and help people fleeing the war settle in Poland. 

While at the border, I saw hundreds of exhausted, terrified faces. On my first day, I met a family who had fled with two bags, their dogs, and nothing else. I looked at their faces and I couldn’t understand how they could be experiencing this pain in 21st-century Europe. Here was another war and right before my eyes were Jewish families fleeing war yet again. 

In that moment, one of the women from the family told me that their dog’s name is Simcha (joy); that small ray of hope reminded me of the resilience and deep eternal joy of the Jewish people.

Polish students attends a demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine following Russian attacks, in Przemysl, Poland (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via AP)

I returned home from the border determined to find ways to connect my small Jewish community in Warsaw to the global Jewish community. When applications opened for the Hillel International Student Cabinet (HISC), I knew that I wanted to serve on the Cabinet and use that service to bring joy and connection to my community.

The students on the HISC remind me that we are the future leaders of the Jewish community, and it is our responsibility to uplift and inspire other young Jews.”