Sunday, September 2, 2018

My 11th Great Grandfather, and Kraków

Since I was already in Warsaw, I took a high-speed train to spend a whirlwind 24 hours in Kraków.  One of the first things I did after dropping off my backpack was to head to the Remah Cemetery.

My 11th great grandfather (yes, you read that right--it helps when you can connect to a rabbinic line) was buried in Kraków in 1640.  Rabbi Joel Sirkis, also known as the BaCh, after his Bayis Chadash writings, served in many communities in the area, the final as a Rabbi in Kraków.  He even has his own page on Wikipedia.
Me at the grave of Rabbi Joel Sirkis

The cemetery was pretty incredible, with many ancient graves of famous Rabbis and authors.  Here are just a few photos that show what the cemetery looks like today.  (You can click on each photo to see a larger version.):




Adjacent to the cemetery was the Remah Shul (synagogue). The ceiling was particularly magnificent.



I went to other Jewish sites of interest in the old Jewish district as well as the area where the ghetto was--including Oskar Schindler's factory, which is now a museum.







I also just walked around Kraków in general (for sites not Jewish-specific).  Here is some of what I saw.









After having been in Warsaw, which was mostly recreated after being destroyed in WWII, I found Kraków to be much more authentic.  Plus, I had ancestors who lived in Kraków, if only for a bit.  Both cities seem to have embraced their Jewish pasts ,although maybe primarily for tourism purposes--and I was offended by some of the touristy things being sold, which included figurines of Jews holding large stacks of money!

And for those of you who saw me hobbling around Poland, yes, I did break a bone in my foot on the second day of the conference, although I didn't find out for sure until I'd been home for nearly a week.  Despite that, I got in over 17000 steps on my Friday in Kraków alone!  I guess I can say I have proven that I'd give my left foot for genealogy.

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Follow me (@larasgenealogy).

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12 comments:

  1. 11th Zeyde! Fantastic and how many of us wish we could connect to you.
    Thanks for the interesting articles.
    Brock

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  2. We were in Krakow three years ago, and I wish we'd had more time. We had a similar reaction to some of the ersatz Jewish things like the restaurants with Klezmer music and Jewish (but not kosher) cuisine. Did you get to the exhibit at the former High Synagogue? That was very moving.

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    1. I did go to the exhibit. It's a gorgeous building, but I found its being a museum to be sad--and a bit representative of what Jewish Krakow has become.

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    2. I did also. In fact, I felt that way in Prague and Krakow and Budapest---that for the most part, synagogues have become museums, not living institutions. On the other hand, it is good that they are remembering the Jewish history of these communities rather than erasing it completely.

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    3. When we were there, the exhibit was all about what life was like in Krakow for the Jewish families in the 1920s and 1930s. I don't know if they have the same exhibit there now.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your moving and interesting journey.

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  4. Very cool. How did you make the connection between your family and Joel Sirkis?

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  5. Do you know if or when the tombstone for Rav Joel Sirkis was replaced? It seems a little immaculate to date back to the 17th century, and I had wondered what the practice was for maintaining the tombstones to prevent weathering.

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  6. When in Warsaw, did you go the Museum of the History of Polish Jews? We spent a day there and still did not see everything.

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    1. No, that's the one thing I wanted to do that I didn't have time for. Everyone said I needed a large block of hours, and I just didn't have enough contiguous time.

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