Category Archives: Judaism

The Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland

While I was in Warsaw earlier this spring, I set out to photograph the world’s largest Jewish cemetery. With my Rolleiflex 2.8F, Holga 120N, and Fujifilm X-T2, I knew what I carried in my arsenal exactly what I would need to create the images I wanted to make.

© hannah kozak

I generally photograph my documentary work in black and white because the images appear less distracting and more timeless, but from past experiences in Buenos Aires, Argentina; La Paz, Bolivia; and Berlin, Germany; I knew I loved the look of cemeteries photographed in color. Color photography adds dimension and context to a scene. Green leaves, for example, can show a picture was taken in spring.

© hannah kozak

I prefer to shoot in film because it offers depth and layers to my photos.That being said, I still use my Fujifilm X-T2 for low light situations where I cannot achieve what I need with film. Most of all, I love shooting with film for the same reason I did as a ten-year-old girl: magic.

© hannah kozak

The moment I pushed open the renovated gate on Okopowa Street, I knew I was in for that kind of magic. Founded in 1806, the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw has 250,000 marked tombs set in 82 acres (33 hectares) of green grass with winding, uneven paths shaded by tall, slender trees. The cemetery is divided into separate areas for women and men, and Orthodox Jews are buried apart from reformed Jews. I was especially moved by the burial plots and graves of thousands of Jews who died in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII and the partisans killed in the Warsaw Uprising.

© hannah kozak

I wandered for hours alone through the cemetery, noting how the trees seemed to have picked up on the sadness in the air. I was reminded of how I love the peace and meditative atmosphere of cemeteries, and was moved by the Jewish graves.

© hannah kozak

As a young girl, I hadn’t completely formulated what I was doing with photography, but I now understand that being in Jewish cemeteries helps me connect with my father’s side of the family—the family I never got to meet. The Jews buried in the Warsaw cemetery, unlike my father’s family, were given the decency of actual tombs and gravestones. His family; mother, father, both grandparents, and his seven siblings were all killed in the Holocaust.

© hannah kozak

Being in Poland and retracing my father’s steps through his hometown and the forced labor camps he survived surfaced emotions that are hard to put into words. I experienced waves of sadness and sorrow, but found balance and meaning through the blessings I have in my life, including being able to travel to Poland time and time again. I find meaning and peace in those sojourns to Poland. Every time I go, it feels as if I am piecing my life together one step at a time.

© hannah kozak

These photos are constant reminders that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and will continue to change with each breath. There’s something about walking through a cemetery alone, experiencing and internalizing the silence, that makes me reflect on how life is fragile and temporary. As I travel alone, it’s true, there are moments of profound loneliness, but they help put me in touch with my feelings, which help me create these photos. I went into the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw seeking spiritual, artistic, and emotional grounding, and I attempted to capture the emotions and images I took away from that experience through my photographs.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

The tall, skinny trees in Poland.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Symbolic graves for the Holocaust victims

© hannah kozak

“I don’t take photos, I make them.” – Hannah Kozak, 2017

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Reflections at Weissensee Cemetary – Berlin, Germany

Reflections at Weissensee Cemetery-Berlin, Germany

© hannah kozak

Stunning architecture at Weissensee Cemetary.

Weißensee Cemetery – I seek out Jewish cemeteries when I travel or cemeteries in general as I find them quieting, peaceful and meditative. Between my love of World War II history and because of my Jewish ancestry I knew I had to spend time at Weissensee Cemetary. I made my way to the Friedrichstraße main station and caught Train S7 in the direction of Ahrensfelde Bhf and got off on the first stop at S Hackescher Market in the direction of Falkenberg. From there, it was 10 stops to Albertinenstr. From that tram, I figured out which direction to walk on Herbert-Baum Strasse and came upon the largest Jewish cemetery in all of Europe.

© hannah kozak

The fact that this cemetery survived during the Third Reich is a miracle in itself. Approximately 115,000 graves are set in over one hundred acres. Crunching leaves rustled beneath my feet as I walked through the graveyard filled with a mix of Italian renaissance and Art Nouveau styles. I viewed sunken gravestones tucked under trees as the rain started and stopped, adding a quiet soundtrack to my much needed solitude. Towards the end of my walk, I sat in a tomb from the 11th century and saw tiny stones and notes, similar to those tucked into the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The entire experience was humbling and offered me time to think and reflect about how temporary our lives are.

© hannah kozak

My first stop was Herbert Baum’s grave. Baum was a Jewish member of the German resistance against National Socialism. He organized meetings, along with his wife, to deal with the threat of Nazism. Baum became the personification of Jewish resistance against the Nazis in Germany. Just like my father, Baum was forced into slave labor. He was at Siemens-Schuckertwerke, which today is Siemens AG. He was at the helm of a group of Jewish laborers at the plant who went into the Berlin underground, to escape being deported to the concentration camps. He organized an arson attack on May 18, 1942. This anticommunist and anti-Semitic propaganda exhibition was prepared by Joseph Goebbels at the Berliner Lustgarten. Because the attack was not a full success, meaning Baum only partially destroyed “The Soviet Paradise” exhibit, he was arrested, along with his wife and other members of his group. Baum was tortured to death as was his wife Marianne.

© hannah kozak

Herbert Baum’s grave

I continued wandering and paused at the outstanding beauty including stunning craftsmanship of wrought iron, mosaics and stone. The early tablets erected before World War I are Silesian Marble or Saxon Sandstone and younger ones were made of Scandinavian dark hard rock or even artificial stone in the 40’s. I was pleased simply to have found German-Jewish painter and printmaker Max Liebermann’s grave.

 © hannah kozak

The Department of History of Architecture and Urban Design of the Berlin Institute of Technology, the Berlin State Office for the Preservation of Historic Monuments and the Centrum Judaicum cooperated on a comprehensive project from 2010 to 2012 to document the entirety of the 134 burial fields. I’ve read that there are aims to make this cemetery a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because it suffered almost no damage during The Third Reich, it forms one of the most important and best-preserved Jewish monuments in Germany.

© hannah kozak

Perhaps because all of my father’s family (mother, father, three sisters, two brothers) were killed at Auschwitz and one brother died in Treblinka during the uprising, and because my family from Poland have no graves at all, I find these graves remarkably beautiful. I see tiny stones resting atop gravestones where people have visited someone from their past and I find beauty in that dignity.

© hannah kozak

Being at the Weissensee Cemetary offered me a quiet place to take a long walk, a journey into the past. Even if one doesn’t have family there it is a special sacred place to walk, wander, remember and wonder.

 © hannah kozak

The photos I’ve made remind me to enjoy the present while I still have my inhale and exhale and to breath in deeply and profoundly as we enter into the Age of Aquarius. We have such a short amount of time here. I hope that these images will remind every one of us to stay present to what’s in front of us, to embrace our changing consciousness in humanity, and remember that we are all going to the same place where death is the great equalizer.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Reflections at Weissensee Cemetary-Berlin, Germany


Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany

Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany

The zinc-clad, jagged structure of the Jewish Museum in Berlin is likened to a deconstructed Star of David, which I find genius. Zig zagging turns, slopes, voids all designed by Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-Jewish architect based in the U.S. His idea was to invoke disorientation, loss and the destruction of Jewish Life. Every facet of the museum from the plan, shape, style, interior and exterior arrangement of the building are part of a complicated philosophical programme to illustrate the history and culture of Germany’s Jewish community and the repercussions of the Holocaust.

I purposely set out early in the morning so I could savor the silence before I entered the space located in what was West Berlin before the fall of the Wall. I believe that a Jewish Museum in Berlin offers not just a memorial but dedication to the rebirth of the Jewish people and their history. The Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum) has succeeded. Every place I visit, every word I write and every time I share, I honor the memory of my father, who survived eight Nazi forced labor camps.

©  hannah kozak

Entrance to The Jewish Museum – Berlin, Germany (Jüdisches Museum Berlin)

© hannah kozak

Jewish Museum – Berlin, Germany

In March 1939, the Berlin couple Ruth & Wolfgang Prager, sent their children on a transport to Sweden. Because Ruth required treatment in a sanitarium, she and Wolfgang put off emigrating until it was too late. In October 1941, they were deported to the Lodz ghetto, where they died the following year. Here is the letter they sent to their children.

© hannah kozak


“My dear children, I don’t know what to tell you because my heart is so full and words are so small and say so little. I had always hoped that we would be reunited but we are probably at a fateful juncture just now.”

© hannah kozak

Windows in the main building seen from the interior.

 © hannah kozak

Farewell scene,
Julius Rosenbaum
(1879-1956)
Berlin, 1934, chalk
The drawing shows Jewish emigrants departing from the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin.

© hannah kozak

When Hitler came into Power, Felix Nussbaum was on a scholarship in Rome. He did not return to Germany, but went via Switzerland and France to Belgium. After the invasion of the German troops, Nussbaum was arrested and interned in Southern France. He fled and, together with his wife, hid in Brussels. In July 1944, both were deported to Auschwitz & murdered.
Nussbaum’s late paintings tell of the period of persecution, of life in the camps, & living illegally.
“You call out and shout but not an echo returns.” wrote Nussbaum in 1937 in a letter to Ludwig Meidner.

© hannah kozak

The public debate about the murder of European Jews began in the courtroom. In 1958, German authorities started systematically investigating Nazi criminals. However, these investigations only seldom resulted in indictments. There was a lack of concrete evidence that could be used to prove suspects were personally responsible for murder. As a result, most of the charges had to be dropped. On the other hand, the court proceedings also served as a means of researching and documenting events that had taken place in the camps.
The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial (1963-1965) ended the long silence about Nazi trials. Over 200 camp survivors gave testimony. International media reported from the courtroom.
The Dusseldorf Majdanek trial (1975-1981) was the longest trial ever held in a German court.

The Holocaust tower is a void of intimidating height with no windows, blank walls and a small slit just under the ceiling which allows in a tiny amount of light and amplifies the outside sounds. Being in this room one is completely separated from the rest of the museum (and world) which invokes a feeling of isolation while feeling the cold. This room is best visited alone to receive the full experience. It felt like having a moment, one tiny space of what it must have been like to be a prisoner in a camp, being incarcerated by the Nazis. Victor Frankl wrote of camp inmates experiencing shock, apathy, and depersonalization in Man’s Search for Meaning. I remember my father, when interviewed for Spielberg’s Shoah project, cried and explained that he choose not to share with his children when we were young because “I didn’t want them to know the suffering I went through.” The heavy door is opened and I couldn’t get out fast enough. As a second generation survivor, I experienced a brief feeling of discomfort that can never, ever come close to what my father experienced in the labor camps for years.

© hannah kozak

Inside the Holocaust Tower.

© hannah kozak

Inside the Holocaust Tower

© hannah kozak

Inside the Holocaust Tower

The Jewish Museum is dedicated to 2,000 years of history, culture and traditions of the Jewish communities in Germany. I loved the physical voids that Libeskind created throughout the building. These so-called voids extend vertically throughout the entire museum and represent the absence of Jews from German society.

The Memory Void contains a work by the Israeli artist Menace Kadishman, who calls his installation, “Shalekhet,” or “Fallen Leaves.” He has dedicated the over 10,000 faces covering the floor not only to Jews killed during the Shoah but to all innocent victims of war and violence. These 10,000 faces punched out of steel are distributed on the ground of the Memory Void. You can walk on the faces and listen to the sounds created by the metal sheets as they clang and rattle against each other. I think it’s powerful and made to unnerve.

© hannah kozak


© hannah kozak

hannah kozak – Self Portrait at
Menace Kadishman’s Shalekhet – Fallen Leaves

The Garden of Exile is forty-nine tilted pillars to represent the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 plus one for Berlin. The garden symbolizes the forced exile of Germany’s Jews. There are concrete columns with oleaster (which look like olive but are wild) trees surrounding them. It’s not truly a garden to relax in and that’s precisely the point and intention.

© hannah kozak


Garden of Exile:
49 tilted pillars to represent the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 plus one for Berlin. The garden symbolizes the forced exile of Germany’s Jews.

© hannah kozak

My prayer for my mother. I believe in miracles.

As I exited the museum and began to find the train station that I came from, I began my solitary walk looking at people, trees, sidewalks, cafes, buses, bicyclists. Walking helps me to simultaneously quiet my mind while thinking. My thoughts flow better when I am moving my legs. Walking helps me reclaim myself as I am recently overworked, which feels like self escape. Unable to turn off the demands at work by not switching off my phone, I am invigorated by walking and being disconnected. I am inspired by the cold air and rain and relish the surprises I find when simply wandering. I have always been motivated to photograph exactly what my eyes see.

© hannah kozak

As I was leaving the Jewish Museum.

In Augustiner’s Restaurant, I was captivated by these two men’s faces while the Festival of Lights was endlessly compelling.

© hannah kozak

Augustiner’s Restaurant

© hannah kozak

Berlin Festival of Lights

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Self Portrait – Jewish Museum

“A Jew must believe in miracles. If a Jew doesn’t believe in miracles, he is not a realist.” – Simon Wiesenthal

Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany


Kraków, Poland for spiritual renewal

Kraków, Poland for spiritual renewal

Krakow has been called the second Rome for its vast amount of churches – places of worship, prayer and spiritual elevation. People in Poland would go to Krakow during hard times for spiritual renewal, consolation and strength. That is why I am here as well. First I saw where my father lived in Bedzin as a child and viewed the station where he would have boarded the train that took him to the first of eight Nazi forced labor camps where he “lived” and spent the next day viewing the grounds at Auschwitz. I am exhausted on many levels; emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically yet I feel the hidden, almost intangible but present spirituality in the air here.

© hannah kozak

Wandering through Krakow late one night

Transformative trips tend to be psychologically and physically challenging and push me way out of my comfort zone. I’m immersed in an authentic experience in a dramatically different environment with people of a different culture. This is life; allowing encounters. I find solitude healing and purifying. Every exposure I make is a discovery of my subjects and myself.

© hannah kozak

The Jewish Quarter

The town of Kazimierz near Krakow was founded in 1335 by Kazimierz the Great. It became a leading centre of Jewish culture. I love the narrow streets, the low buildings. I feel as if I’m bearing witness to centuries of peaceful co-existence of two nations, Jewish and Poles. I sense a sacredness simply viewing the coherent architecture all around. I also love the sound of the Polish language and accent.

© hannah kozak

Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Kraków, Poland

I choose to stay in Kazimierez because it was an active centre of Judaic culture and learning. Tens of thousands of Jewish people from the late middle ages until the Holocaust, called it home. There was a specific interest in welcoming Jews with an environment where they weren’t a minority but instead settlers. I think of it almost like Ellis Island. Visiting the synagogues, the Jewish cemetery and bookstore feels comfortable and familiar and Krakow is filled with cafes, bars, restaurants and dogs.

© hannah kozak

dog in Kraków – Who is your mom?

The Nazis annihilated this Jewish, unique world but many of the monuments are being restored. The Jewish renewal in Poland is everywhere with cutting edge projects being done at The Galicia Jewish Museum.

© hannah kozak

Paulina Lichwicka – 4th year Graphic Design student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.

I can close my eyes and feel the magic of when poets and writers in Krakow were treated like movie stars. There was a great artistic freedom that prevailed in Krakow. I feel the landscape of Jewish history being revealed here.

© hannah kozak

Doorway in Kraków

© hannah kozak

Doorway in Kraków

The main square in Krakow is Rynek Glowny but what I resonated with was the stalls at Plac Nowy in Kazimierz where there is a daily market from 5:30 am to early afternoon. I found it to be the spiritual center of Krakow sub-culture. There is not a great splendor like the Old Town and in fact, you’ll see chipped green market stalls and pigeons flapping about. What I love is the history. Plac Nowy began as far back as 1808 and for 200 years served as a market place with its central landmark, the Okraglak (rotunda) which was added in 1900. The locals line up outside the dozens of hole-in-the-wall fast food hatches that operate from the rotunda. This is where you can find the best zapiekanka – a halved baguette topped with mushrooms and cheese, vegetables and meat, in all of Poland.

I visited the Old Synagogue built in the 15th century, the oldest in all of Poland where I saw a bimah, an elevated platform with an iron balustrade used for readings from the Torah. The Nazis destroyed the interior of the synagogue, turning into a storage room and executed thirty Polish hostages in 1943. Restoration began in the 1950’s and it is now a museum of Jewish history, culture and tradition. I’ve read that the synagogues in Kazimierez were all used as storehouses, and not burnt down like the rest in Poland.

© hannah kozak

Bimah in Old Synagogue, Kraków, Poland

 © hannah kozak

Old Synagogue, Kraków

© hannah kozak

Baroque Money Box @ Synagogue

The Remu’h Synagogue is dedicated to the rabbi and philosopher Remu’h, who was reputed to be a miracle worker and is buried just outside the walls of the synagogue. Pious Jews make the pilgrim to visit his grave. Again, under Nazi occupation, both the synagogue and cemetery were destroyed but restored in the 1950’s and 60’s.

© hannah kozak

Interior at Remu’h Synagogue, Kraków, Poland

© hannah kozak

Jewish cemetary at Remu’h.

© hannah kozak

Chassidim paying respects to Remu’h.

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Original Renaissance money box at Remu’h Synagogue, Kraków, Poland

I ate at Ariel, the restaurant Steven Spielberg favored while he filmed Schindler’s List here. The exterior looked like a house from a fairy tale.

© hannah kozak

Ariel Restaurant, Kraków, Poland in Jewish Quarter

© hannah kozak

Ariel Restaurant

© hannah kozak

Dinner At Ariel Restaurant.

To go from the Jewish quarter to Podgorze, which became the Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust, is the Father Bernatek Footbridge. The bridge has become a “love lock” bridge where couples place a padlock on the bridge to show their everlasting love. Maybe the ones that aren’t so sure use the combination locks.

©hannah kozak

Father Bernatek Footbridge in Kraków

© hannah kozak

Boys outside Remu’h Synagogue

© hannah kozak

Children in front of The Old Synagogue, Kraków

 © hannah kozak

The Jewish Quarter

“We can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves.” – Martin Buber
Martin Buber

Kraków, Poland for spiritual renewal


Old Jaffa and Eilat, Israel

Jaffa, the old city in Tel Aviv was as magical as when I visited thirty-three years ago. The small, narrow streets lead you to unique boutiques, restaurants and cafes but what I love most of all is walking along the ancient cobblestones as I spot cats wandering. Neve Tzedek and Tel Aviv have their own unique flavors but the history of Jaffa as the main entry point to the land of Israel until the late 19th century when Jews were returning to Israel, makes it astonishing for me.

©hannah kozak

Jaffa

©hannah kozak

Old Jaffa

The ability to meet people from around the world is at my fingertips with the power of social media, which although can have a loaded connotation, is actually meant to be friendly, useful and genuine. A photographer followed me on Twitter, and I followed him. I checked out his site and saw his sensitivity, ability to understand light and use shadows to evoke feeling and emotion. Check out his site on RedBubble; an incredibly diverse, creative community on the internet.

http://www.redbubble.com/people/stran9e

I wrote to him that I would be visiting Israel and asked if we could meet. Having only one evening in Tel Aviv before I left for Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, Vicktor not only met me but helped make my experience filled with memories of Jaffa and a new, kind friend.

©hannah kozak

Old Jaffa

Vicktor drove us to Jaffa, where we walked around the ancient city, looking at the ocean and settling into a local restaurant where we enjoyed a glass of Syrah, ate appetizers of hummus and eggplant with olive oil, while discussing photography and life. I eschew groups even more so when I travel and adore one on ones so it was a perfect evening.

©hannah kozak

Old Jaffa

For my stay in Tel Aviv, I choose the ArtPlus; a brand new, sixty-two room hotel which supports the arts. The overall design mimics the ambience of art galleries and exhibition spaces.  Five famous local artists were commissioned to create the murals that distinguish the décor on each floor and my favorite; a mezuzah, reminding us of our connection to G-d, and protection, on each door.  In the morning, I left early for Eilat before having the delicious breakfast that is found all over Israel; fresh salads and hummus yumminess.

© hannah kozak

Artplus Hotel, Tel Aviv

© hannah kozak

Goikey breakfast at Artplus

I’ve read that the truest beauty can be found in the harshest land, that G-d can be found by keeping your eyes open. As I pulled my luggage along the cobblestone streets in Eilat, feeling the sun and shedding a layer of clothing, a taxi driver slowed down, called out to me in Hebrew, and stopped his cab, to hand me the lock that had fallen off my luggage in the bus station when I arrived. I offered my hand, a smile and todah rabah, thank you very much. I was so tired from schlepping, that I hadn’t noticed the lock missing.

©hannah kozak

Old Jaffa

© hannah kozak

Old Jaffa

© hannah kozak

Entrance to Synagogue

© hannah kozak

Street names in tile

© hannah kozak

Street art in Jaffa

© hannah kozak

Jaffa cat -Who’s your mom?

The warm, balmy air feels good and I hear seagulls calling out to their friends. The breeze of this oasis reminds me I am on the coast of the Red Sea and I am grateful for my breath. I spent the late part of the day on the beach, reading “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman, a novel a friend had given me two years ago that is set during and after the fall of Jerusalem.  I promised myself I would read this book when I was in Israel and that is precisely what I am doing. The Dovekeepers takes on an added layer when traveling through this holy land. I am free and not in bondage as my father was in Nazi labor camps.  As I look out to the sea, where the calming, transparent waters remind me the animals live by the rhythm of the sun and sea, of the desert, of G-d, of life itself. The earth, and sea and desert will live on forever. I will not. I am blissful from this quiet time in the desert.

Jrr Tolkien_Not All Those


Yom Hashoah honored by Israel with silence, sirens and contemplation

As the sirens begin to wail and continue for two full minutes, I witness people getting off their bikes, stopping in their tracks while cars and buses also halt wherever they are.  People bow their heads and I find the space to feel the loss of my father, a Holocaust survivor of eight Nazi forced labor camps, who recently died. I am in Israel. So while some may view Israel, a country bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt as a place of violence and terror, I see nothing but beauty in a land that was created for displaced Jews.  I murmur a prayer for the dead, for my father who made survival his art.

© hannah kozak

Yom Hashoah observance in Ramat Hasharon, Israel

Nine days after my father left his physical body, I booked a trip to Israel to rejuvenate and Poland to seek out my heritage, to visit my ancestral shtetl. I want to see where my father lived with his seven siblings, mother and father in a one-bedroom apartment in Bedzin, Poland in my quest as a redemption narrative, going beyond what I know.

My sojourn began in a suburb called Ramat Hasharon to be with my mother’s brothers’ family.  I spent the morning swimming with my cousin in a outdoor sea water swimming pool in the Sharon Hotel in Herzliya overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, which revitalized me from the jet lag I was in.

© hannah kozak

Mediterranean Sea from Sharon Hotel – Herzliya

Now I am part of a day to memorialize the tragedies of the Holocaust.  We stand in remembrance for our families and for those we never knew. The Knesset in Israel made Yom Hashoah a national public holiday in nineteen fifty nine and a law was passed in nineteen sixty one that closed all public entertainment on this day.

As Neo-Nazis have once again been legalized in Europe, openly sitting in parliaments, I, along with the people next to me, bow my head in silence as the tears run down my face. I needed this experience to help me feel and clear out the sadness from losing my father.

And now the best part of returning to Israel, a mission to find the best hummus. My uncle brought us to a local favorite restaurant that is on the border of Ramat Hasharon and Tel Aviv called Dagim 206. Their hummus gets a ten. Goiked!

© hannah kozak

Hummus in Ramat Hasharon

“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien


Jewish life in Buenos Aires, Argentina

It was 1938, during Kristallnact, or Night of Broken Glass when Jewish homes, shops, villages and towns were ransacked and set on fire. My father was 15 years old when he heard a knock at the door of the 1 bedroom apartment he shared with his 7 siblings, mother and father in Bedzin, Poland. The Germans were there to take my grandfather away but my father talked the men at the door into taking him instead. He never saw anyone in his family alive again. My father survived 8 concentration work camps, a year long stay in a hospital when the camps were liberated in May, 1945,  as he was down to 65 pounds, when he crossed a boat to arrive in New York, alone.  He was able to rebuild a life for himself in California and passed down the importance of being a Jew to me. I moved to Israel when I was 20 years old to work on a kibbutz and study Hebrew. Since then I have always had a life long love of Judaism. A large part of my attraction in wanting to discover and explore Buenos Aires was my understanding of a large Jewish population.

Argentina has one of the greatest communities of Jews in Central & South America, around 250,000; of that 200,000 live in Buenos Aires. The population is 85% Ashkenazi and 15% Sephardi Jews.  After the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, many Jews settled in Argentina. At the end of the 19thcentury, Jews fled the pogroms and poverty in Russia and because the policy of immigration was an open door, another wave of Jews headed for Argentina. Jews were persecuted for political activities and from the original 500,000, we now have 200,000. Many left to Venezuela, U.S. and Israel.

A Jewish tour of Buenos Aires brought me to AMIA-which was founded to promote the individual, family and growth of Jewish life in Argentina. It’s truly an umbrella for the Jewish community. In 1992, AMIA was bombed and 29 people were killed.  On July 18, 1994, a car was driven into the center which killed 85 people including many children. This bomb imposed a new era where the community prioritized justice and preserved the legacy of a rich cultural tradition that honors life.  The new building has barriers in front so no car could drive through now. No justice has ever been served for the innocent men, women and children who died. Justice is a word that seems to provoke many emotions for me as no justice was ever served by the man who abused my mother. But I digress.

plaque at AMIA

I wish I could have seen all 80 synagogues in Buenos Aires in my time there. I  visited the Paso synagogue and the oldest synagogue in Buenos Aires; Libertad. Olivia managed to find a moment for her favorite past time; reading. Buenos Aires has one of the world’s four remaining Yiddish daily newspapers. Others are found in Paris, Tel Aviv and Birobidjan, in Siberia.

In spite of the ups and downs of antisemitism, especially, but not only, during military repressions, Jews have played an important role in industry, commerce, the arts, literature, journalism, and also in politics.

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Paso Synagogue

Olivia exhausted from lofty reading goals

Memorial for the Jews that died in 1994 car bombing

Libertad Synagogue

Interior of the ark- Libertad Synagogue

Libertad Synagogue

Libertad Synagogue

You can hire a lovely, older Jewish couple to do half and full day tours tailored to your interests.

http://www.jewishinbuenosaires.com.ar/


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