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Exploring my Jewish Identity in Poland

Ruby Messulam recounts her experience on a meaningful trip to Poland, and how her mentality towards Judaism and her self expression have been changed since returning.



Before going to Poland, I knew what it meant to be Jewish. I knew it was important to me, but I never understood why. I was brought up to observe Judaism traditionally. We have always celebrated the festivals and I learnt about all the Torah stories in a weekly cheder classes. However I never resonated with these things on a deeper level. I never understood why being Jewish was a privilege. I know people who say that they don’t see how being Jewish can make you a better or a happier person. I now strongly disagree. Being Jewish is a value I hold above almost everything else. For me personally, it is the single most important aspect of my identity. I never would have expected to go through such a life changing experience at only seventeen years old. The trip has given me a feeling of connection with Jews around the world.

 

Going on the Poland Learn2Lead experience in October deepened both my understanding and my appreciation for Judaism, giving me the feeling of responsibility to ensure the continuation of the Jewish people. My experience has made me value the religious freedom that I have, compared with the six million Jewish people, who had their freedom taken away. Going to Poland changed my mentality about the importance of things in life. I think I often take what I have for granted, and forget that not everyone is as lucky as I am. I am now more self-aware, and I think more deeply about what I can do to help others and make a difference.

 

One of the most meaningful moments was in the Majdanek concentration camp, when I saw thousands of shoes. Each shoe represented a life. A story. A person. A person who was never given the chance to finish their story. Some were hardly even able to begin one. Every shoe was different. There were heels, boots, red shoes, blue shoes, work shoes, tiny shoes. Tiny shoes that belonged to children. I learnt many things over the inspiring five days, but above all, I learnt to be grateful. I struggled with the ongoing thought of knowing that there was nothing I could do, I had no control over the horrific situation. I could not bring back the lives that were taken. Although we all may feel powerless, I have found that we actually have more power than we realise. We have the power to never forget. I will never forget what happened, I will never forget my incredible experience in Poland, but above all, I will never forget the importance of being Jewish.


Ruby Messulam

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