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Usually when you think of the Polish Jewish history, the first thing that comes to your mind are the terrible crimes of World War II. It is a very fresh wound and naturally the whole world remembers it , sometimes forgetting that Poland is not to be blamed for it. But if you look back in history, you will see that Poland used to be known for its religious tolerance. This allowed the Jewish culture to flourish and the Jewish community in Poland was the largest in the world. It is said that in the middle of the 16th century about three quarters of Jews lived in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth!
Nevertheless when you join a Jewish history tour, you are usually only offered to visit death camps, focusing your attention on the bad things that have happened. Naturally it is very important to learn our history lesson and a visit to such places as Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka will have a huge impact on your life. It is also worth seeing the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II in order to better understand the Polish Jewish history.
But your Jewish trip to Poland should not end here, there is so much more to see! Poland is not only death camps, places of martyrdom and Jewish ghettos. There are many lovely and picturesque towns where you can almost feel the atmosphere of the old days, with Jewish craftsmen, merchants and artists walking along the streets. Towns with charming, old Jewish cemeteries that make you realize how far the history of Jews in Poland dates back. Stunning synagogues that have survived World War II. It is all worth seeing!
You can explore Kazimierz Dolny by the Vistula River, which used to host a large Jewish society, and have lunch at an old Jewish restaurant. You can pay a visit to the beautiful town of Tykocin and walk around one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland. You can also add the stunning synagogue in Łańcut and the newly rebuilt synagogue in Chmielnik to your Jewish history tour. The Chmielnik synagogue hosts a museum which depicts life in a typical shtetl – a small town with a large Jewish community that existed in Poland before the Holocaust. The building itself is designed to symbolize light – Jews and Poles living together before the war, and shadow – the Holocaust. And why not explore the Polish Jewish history even further by paying a visit to the POLIN Museum of the history of Polish Jews?
Bear in mind that your Jewish trip to Poland does not have to be limited to learning about the dark side of the past. You can look for a Jewish history tour that will give you a broader view of the life of Jews in Poland.