Limud Polska I

Time. How it shapes change.
Fifteen years ago in Wroclaw, Poland I shared a Shabbat dinner with a group of about 20 people sitting around a large table and singing zmirot, happy melodies to welcome the weekly holiday. I felt like a pioneer discovering gold. Back home in the US the common assumption was that there were no Jews left in Poland after the Holocaust and communism. And there I was, a participant in a service with Jews (in some cases, maybe half-Jews or quarter-Jews or eighth-Jews or non-but-interested-in-Jews) who were singing their hearts out in the Hebrew language, instilling soul into their words, touching me on a deep level.
Upon returning to the States, I announced my discovery to my NJ Jewish community: There are Jews in Poland! Few listened. Most disputed my findings, even when they had never been there. It was as if there was a desire to hold onto an ugly belief that had been shaped by an unspeakably tragic past. Yet I had the opportunity to see the reality through a different light, then became obsessed with aligning perceptions and reality.
One important Jewish thinker listened to me and acted: David Twersky, then the editor of the NJ Jewish News for which I was the political correspondent, told me to pursue the story.
My love with Polish Jewry began then, and after all the print stories were done, I moved to documentaries. At that point my journey became a shared experience, and the cinematographer became my husband, Curt Fissel.
Fast forward to today, five documentaries on the subject later. Curt and I are this moment sitting in a hotel lounge in Warsaw for “Limud Polska.” Limud is the popular worldwide Jewish learning conference, and this is the Polish affiliate. Two of our documentaries will screen this weekend. We just arrived, and the lobby is filling up with people before the organizers have even come. They closed out the conference at 700 people, but the few hundred additional folks who called late in the game are still clamoring to get in.
Time. How it shapes change.
Funny thing is, unlike 15 years ago, I’m no longer surprised to see these faces here than anywhere else in the Jewish world.
I’ll continue blogging over the weekend. I know I will have a lot to share.

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