One hundred and two people from nine cities all over Poland (and even Berlin!) came together in Lodz for three days to enjoy the Jewish community, Shabbat and tradition.
Seven years ago, the e-Learning Shabbaton met for the first time in Łódź. In later years, the group met in Krakow, Wroclaw, and Warsaw. This year, participants reconvened in the beautiful city of Lodz, hosted by the Jewish Religious Community in Łódź and its wonderful rabbi – Dawid Szychowski.
First, the group held afternoon prayers (Mincha) in the magnificent interiors of the Credit Society House. After lighting the Shabbat candles, the audience listened to Rebbetzin Batya Zaretsky’s divrei Torah. Shabbat dinner was spent among family and friends. During the Shabbat supper, attendees listened to more words of wisdom, and took part in a fun contest of knowledge about Judaism and the Lauder e-Learning school, prepared by Miriam Syngier and her children (e-Learning students, of course).
About a hundred and twenty people attended the Shabbat dinner – including Jewish residents of Łódź, as well as a representative of the Lauder-Morasha Schools in Warsaw – Mrs. Karolina Szykier-Koszucka and her family. Alumni: Shirel, Iwona and Karolina also joined. The meeting with friends and acquaintances caused great joy – hugs, and warm greeting.
After the Sabbath supper, the group heard the story of the beginnings of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. Krzysztof Korzonkowski reminded of the origins of the Lauder family, as well as the reasons why Mr. Ronald S. Lauder decided to establish the foundation. The story evoked a wave of memories of the first years of the Foundation’s activity, the first Jewish summer camps, clubs, and classes. Conversations flowed late in the night, while participants sustained themselves with sweet pastries and fruits.
On the Shabbat in the morning, adults participated in prayers, while children and youth joined in education games and activities. The youngest pupils listened to prayers sung by Rebbetzin Batya Zaretsky and recalled the story of Yetziyat Mitzraim (Exodus from Egypt), thanks to the classes with Miriam Syngier. The older students engaged in a discussion about the idea of freedom, free will, and arbitrariness with Joanna Machel (who teaches the Jewish culture at the Lauder Poland e-Learning school).
Shabbat lunch took place in the building of the Jewish Community, while guests heard words of Torah, sang zemirot and enjoyed delicious, traditional food. It was an excellent opportunity to hear about several educational programs for young people and adults.
An e-Learning graduate, Karolina, introduced the Naale program, thanks to which she spent three years in high school in Israel. This program drew great interest and caused an avalanche of questions. Mr. Baruch Ciesielski presented another fantastic educational program, geared for young adults. JAcademy is a 10-month program in which students gain a variety of life and personal skills combined with amazing internships in Jerusalem, London, and Berlin. Mrs. Joanna Machel encouraged graduates to take advantage of the great Taglit Birthright trip, thanks to which young Jews can tour Israel on a unique journey. Mrs. Joanna encouraged adults to deepen their knowledge of Judaism, at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Israel, where she studied for three years.
After lunch and afternoon prayers, most of the participants of the Shabbaton went with the guide, Mrs. Wicepolska, for a walk around the Jewish monuments of Łódź and saw the only remaining synagogue built by Wilhelm Reicher.
Seuda Szliszi and Havdalah
Although no one felt hungry after a hearty lunch, the group met for another meal: Seuda Shlishi, followed by the evening prayer. Chaim Kobyliński, e-Learning teacher of Jewish culture, led the Havdalah service. After Shabbat concluded, students met at a hotel for the Great Lauder Gala, at which students eagerly received e-Learning school certificates and prizes! Parents proudly watched, photographed and applauded their children. In addition to their certificates of course completion, each student received commemorative gifts: a rucksack with the Foundation’s logo and inscriptions, bookmarks, and notebooks depicting the passports of the State of Israel. Children included pupils of the e-Learning School, as well as younger siblings and families of the program’s teachers and rabbis.
After the Lauder Gala, the long-anticipated bowling trip to the Manufaktura came. From young to old – all enjoyed the bowling. Those who did not take part in entertainment could continue conversations with friends they hadn’t seen for a long time.
The group enjoyed breakfast together in the headquarters of the Łódź Kehillah. Pupils received empty charity boxes in the shape of cats, so they can collect donations for the poor and the needy. Last year, the group gave its charity to the Polish Humanitarian Action in Syria. This year, the group decided to designate its collected donations to the needs of one of our families. Just a few weeks ago, a tragedy happened: their apartment burnt in a fire. Although they temporarily have a place to stay, they need support to renovate the flat. Thanks to the generosity of e-Learning families, participants managed to collect PLN 1,200! Dorota and Baruch Ciesielski transferred the funds to the needy family, and pray that the Tzedakah will help them rebuild the apartment!
Participants of the Shabbaton received lunch packages, before setting out on their journeys home. For those who could stay a little longer in Łódź, another attraction awaited: a visit to the Planetarium! In the very center of the city. After long farewells and hugs, Poland’s Lauder e-Learning School Shabbaton attendees parted to their home towns.