It’s been a very Hebrew kind of day. I am working on a translation of an article in Hebrew written by a descendant of Lublin Jews so that some Polish students going to Israel on an exchange program with students from Lublin’s sister city Rishon Lezion will be able to read it so they can learn about the ancestors of the Lubliners they will meet in Israel.
I had falafel for dinner.
But the coolest thing is that I gave a tour of Brama in Hebrew! Granted, I needed help with a few words here and there but overall it was really good. I had 20 in my group, which is really too big for me. I like groups of 10 or fewer (I have given tours at Yad Vashem and the JFK Library as well), which is why Bridge To Poland groups are around that size. Larger groups are especially hard when you don’t know the people. In a large group there’s always someone not paying attention. I thought that speaking Hebrew would alleviate that situation but in the end I don’t think speaking Hebrew made them pay attention any more. The thing is, you are often going to have, in a class or tour group, some people who are really into it and and some who would rather be hanging out with their friends. These are kids. They are tired. They had been to Majdanek earlier in the day. Some of them were just plain done. But a few of them were really fascinated. They asked questions. They looked me right in the eye; one young woman looked to be on the edge of tears. One asked really good, specific questions based on having looked things up beforehand. A young man mentioned his grandparents. A few of them asked for the web address of the Center.
For some reason when I was speaking Hebrew to Israelis I found it easier to be super passionate about the work of Brama Grodzka and the importance of it to me and how moving I find it then when I speak English. There are certain things with an Israeli group that you know they are just going to get—the devastation of the empty space where the Jewish town used to be, for example. They understood immediately what the reading of the names was, unlike some other visitors. They hear that every year after all on Yom Ha Zikharon, Memorial Day. The teachers who were with them were very moved. And of course there are things you just don’t have to explain to an Israeli group: they know what a mezuzah is. They know the difference between Hebrew and Yiddish. They know what a matzevah* is and they understood that for most of Lublin’s 43,000 Jews, there are no matzevot, and that’s why Brama Grodzka-Teatr NN— an ark of memory, an archive, an orphanage of stories, or whatever metaphor you want to use, is so important.
*matzevah= tombstone in Hebrew (plural = matzevot; maceva = Polish spelling)