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Changing Facts on The Ground: From Cracow To New York

By , Cracow, Poland

( As Sept. 11 is remembered today, memorial ceremonies will abound, as they should. But many will look for signs of change that prove that the evil unleashed on that calamitous day has been defeated.

Survivors—and in a sense, we are all survivors of 9/11—need to see evidence, facts on the ground that prove that life yet grows, that a community yet thrives, despite incredible attempts to deny and destroy it. 

Ground Zero will always reflect signs of the tragedy. The physical space will always be a testament to the lives that were lost there on 9/11. But it will bear this memory not because it has turned into gravesite, but hopefully, because this is a place that has rebounded, where the business of life and creative energy thrive, despite calculated plans to ensure that it wouldn't. 

Last week, the same day that the world marked 70 years since the beginning of WWII, a small, largely unnoticed event delivered yet another defeat to the terror of all terrors. 

A handful of Jewish children bounded cheerfully into a colorfully decorated, brightly illuminated kindergarten. 

A Jewish kindergarten. 

In Cracow, Poland. 

Rabbi Eliezer Gurary, the local Chabad representative, says he isn’t sure, but this may well be the first Jewish preschool to open here since the Holocaust. 

Seventy years after the war that started “final solution” to the Jewish people, on the very ground where it all began, where more than a million Jewish children were murdered, Jewish life is flowering. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, was not very big on ceremonies. He had much greater preference for the empowerment of action. It’s from his example that Chabad representatives worldwide have learned that the best way to displace evil is by changing the facts on the ground. 

“People travel through here all the time on their way to visit Auschwitz, which is just a few kilometers distance from the Chabad center,” explains Rabbi Gurary. 

Against the backdrop of Auschwitz, representative of the systematic annihilation of the Jewish people, Rabbi Gurary and his wife work diligently to prove that the killing grounds may yet sprout life and joy. 

So they greet travelers warmly, hosting about 100 Jewish guests every Friday night at spirited Shabbat dinners. 

With Chabad’s  kosher restaurant, daily prayer services, study classes for men and women, and children’s programs, Chabad of Cracow has created a level of proud Jewish visibility here that was, for so many years, unthinkable. 

And now, even in Cracow, as in Warsaw, in Munich, and in Berlin, there are Jewish children happily absorbed in learning the Hebrew Alef-Bet, chanting children’s songs about apple-dipped-honey and practicing traditional blessings to take home to their parents with wishes for a sweet New Year. 

May the sadness of 9/11 that many of us feel today, be replaced with the joy of good achievements, and the promise of a very sweet, good New Year.


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