EMET Yizkor: Discovering the past, growing for the future

EMET YIZKOR: Discovering our past, growing our future

This is one of EMET's newest and most exciting initiatives. Students spend a year learning about their heritage and history, and the experience culminates in a life-changing week-long trip to Poland and Prague.

We launched this program in 2017 with an exclusive Europe trip to reward graduates of our Stony Brook University Fellowship program. We were blown away by the students' response. Virtually everyone was inspired and stirred, and some took on major changes and new commitments of Torah observance. Some davened for the first time. One boy now wears a kippah, and another was inspired to start putting on tefillin. A number of students decided to attend yeshiva in the summer, the first time they’ll ever experience yeshiva study.

Staff and students visit many historic and significant sites, including death camps, mass graves, shuls, yeshivas, graves of tzaddikim, and other historic locations. They are shown the richness of Jewish history, including yeshivas, shuls, and kevarim of Tzaddikim. They spend an uplifting Shabbos in Krakow, a city whose Jewish imprint was left mostly intact. Throughout the trip, they are given a genuine taste of the life led by Jews for nearly a thousand years, almost like entering a time capsule. Destinations are not randomly chosen, but rather strategically designed to evoke deep feelings and give students an emotionally charged experience. They alternate between somber experiences and positive ones, and between locations they engage in group discussions to decompress and internalize what they’ve seen. Rabbi Delman, a talented musician, plays songs on his guitar throughout the trip.

To prepare students emotionally and intellectually, Rabbi Kraft gives classes for an entire semester designed to maximize growth. His lessons are crafted to enable students to recognize how special they are in the backdrop of Poland and the glory of what Jewish history was and the tragedy of the last century. Rabbi Kraft emphasizes that all Jews are brothers and sisters, and only when we unite and act in harmony can we fulfill a noble and glorious purpose.

This is more than just students discovering their heritage. It’s a life-changing opportunity to discover the deeper meaning of life, and their purpose as Jews. Rabbi Kraft said, “We don’t just view this as historical. Students are discovering what it means to be a Jew. We’re always trying to inspire students. We give them a full-year learning experience to engage academically, and it culminates with this trip, showing the history of Jewish life, and the great rabbis and thinkers who still influence our lives today.”

Click here to read an article about the Poland trip in the Queens Jewish Link.