The participants, between the ages of 18-35, most of whom were raised Catholic, came from a variety of cities throughout Poland, primarily Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Lodz and Gdansk. For many it marked their first time visiting Israel.
Video courtesy of Shavei Israel
"There is a growing thirst among young Poles with Jewish roots to learn more about their Jewish religious and cultural heritage,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund.
"This awakening would have been unthinkable just 25 or 30 years ago, but since the downfall of Communism, an increasing number of Poles have sought to reclaim and affirm their Jewish identity. We owe it to them to assist them in any way that we can."
Freund added that "with the start of the new Jewish year just a few weeks away, it is fitting that these young Poles have come to Israel to rekindle their bond with the Jewish people. They represent the future of Polish Jewry, which despite decades of suffering and persecution is now beginning to thrive.
"There can be no sweeter revenge for what was done to us seven decades ago in Poland than to reconnect as many of these young Polish Jews as possible with Israel and the Jewish people."
Growing number returning to JudaismThe unique program, which is run by Shavei Israel’s team of Polish-speaking rabbis and educators, is designed to assist them in discovering more about their Jewish roots and learning more about ancient and modern-day Israel.
Not only did the young Poles delve deeper into Jewish study in the classroom, but they also had an opportunity to tour various sites in Israel, such as Masada and the Dead Sea, and the northern part of the country including the Sea of Galilee and the Kabbalistic city of Safed.
The group also toured the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, explored the Western Wall tunnels and visited Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl.
Today, there are approximately 4,000 Jews registered as living in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews in Poland who to this day are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage.
In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the "hidden Jews of Poland," have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.