This trip was truly a full circle moment for me for so many reasons. The last time I was in Poland was when I was 17 years old on a Jewish youth trip that was heavily Holocaust focused. Although during this trip we did discuss the Holocaust, it was refreshing to do so in comparison with a contemporary lens on a beautiful and growing Jewish community that exists now in Poland.
Our trip started off in Krakow where we were able to learn more about the JCC of Krakow and Hillel of Krakow (crazy to meet colleagues from across the world!). We also learned about humanitarian relief work that JCC Krakow has been participating in since the start of the Ukraine war, and we were able to participate in some food distribution packaging for refugees. We saw and experienced first hand what folks on the ground are already doing for aid, and we provided more hands/labor in spaces where it felt really necessary.
After a couple days, we took the train to Warsaw and we learned how it was decimated after World War II and how the city exists in that space now. We had a beautiful generation to generation, l’dor v’dor, moment where a participant on the trip was able to go see the apartment his grandmother used to live in, and we were able to hear more about the work that both JDC and JCC Warsaw are doing in the region. These few days in Poland really inspired me to continue to research my family’s story and my heritage, so we’ll see where that goes!
The second and final part of my time this spring in Eastern Europe was spent in Moldova. I never thought I would travel to this country! It was interesting to see the remnants of the Soviet Union merged with the contemporary lives of those living in Chisinau. The Jewish community here is thriving and I truly mean that. We were able to see this through the many volunteers and participants through Kedem JCC. We had the opportunity to participate in more food distribution and aid to both the elderly community in Chisinau as well as the Ukrainian refugee community, where we were able to meet some of the refugees as well. We also were able to participate in the culture there through celebrating Shabbat as well as visiting a winery that was a little spooky but very cool. We got to briefly see some of the monastery caves, too. Overall, I want to thank JDC Entwine & Repair the World for the opportunity to explore something so important like global Jewry and ethical service!
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Zoe Levine (she/they) graduated from Chatham University in Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science, double minors in French and Theatre Production, and an International Certificate: European Concentration and is an alum of the Repair the World Pittsburgh Service Corps. Zoe believes that social justice and advocacy are linked in totality with Jewish values, which has guided her through the transition of Manager of Jewish Student Experiences and Springboard Social Justice Fellow for Oberlin College Hillel to the role of Senior Program Director for the University of Wisconsin Hillel. Outside of her professional life Zoe loves to cook, read, go hiking, do yoga, travel, and spend time with her partner, and their cat, Obi-Wan Katnobi.