July 19. 2012
The Emotional Three Days in Krakow for 300 Skverer Chasidim and Their Rebbe
For 300 chasidim of Skver, a Shabbos in the ancient city of Krakow earlier this summer will leave them with everlasting memories. In a city that once was home to such giants as Rav Moshe Isserles, the Ramoh, the presence of Rav Dovid Twerski, the renowned Skverer Rebbe of New Square NY, was an awe-inspiring sight. The Chasidim, who were part of Habbonim, the builders of the institutions of Skver, began their historic visit by joining the Rebbe at the kever of the Ramoh in the old cemetery of Krakow adjacent to the shul of the Ramoh. The Rebbe meticulously walked along the cemetery stopping to daven at the graves of the many Torah luminaries who are buried there. A descendent of the Ramoh, the Rebbe referred to him as "my grandfather." The chasidim handed the Rebbe "kvitlech" to daven at the kever on their behalf in what was an experience for all who were present.
That evening, the Chasidim participated in an inspiring Seudas Rosh Chodesh Tammuz that included much singing and dancing as well as Torah messages from several prominent personalities who had joined the mission. They listened intently to the lecture of Reb Moshe Yaakov Kanner of Toronto who recounted the rich history of Krakow and its tragic destruction. He said that spending the Shabbos with the Rebbe was like standing before the Arch of Titus in Rome and proclaiming: "We are still here!" a reference to the Nazis who sought the destruction of every last Jew. The seuda was a magnificently catered event at the Galaxy Hotel by Kosher Delight, a glatt kosher caterer (supervision by Rabbi Dov Landau of Chasam Sofer) with kosher restaurants and catering facilities in Krakow, Lodz and Warsaw.
On Friday morning, the Chasidim made the early morning near 4-hour journey to Lizensk, the burial site of the legendary Reb Elimelech and author of the Noam Elimelech. One chasid described the scene this way: "Here was the Rebbe circling the grave seven times crying incessantly as he recited tehilim and other tefillos. He brought the greatness of Reb Elimelech of Lizensk to life."
As the Chasidim returned from the exhaustive trip, they were greeted with a spread of many delicacies, including hot cholent and kugel. Nightfall was still hours away this erev Shabbos with its late summer nightfall, but the beautiful davening, including the kabbolas Shabbos from the Rebbe, made the wait worthwhile even as a long night waited. The seuda did not commence until after 11, the tisch with the Rebbe entering to the sound of loud singing just a few minutes shy of 1 am. After the long inspiring "tisch," the guests were treated to an Oneg Shabbos. Amazingly, here in the city of Krakow, the chasidim enjoyed quality heimishe fare as they would in New York, all thanks to Pinchas Etzioni, a Gerer Chosid from Israel who is the owner of Kosher Delight in Poland. Etzioni caters to groups and to individuals through his three catering facilities and three restaurants in key Polish cities.
The Rebbe's remarks throughout the Shabbos as well as the intense davening in a city that had all but been wiped out in the Churban brought tears to many of the participants. The long Shabbos day was punctuated by emotion-filled singing and davening as well as inspiring addresses from many notables including Rabbi Avrohom Schlesinger, Chief Rabbi of Geneva. Many of the participants visited the Jewish Quarter, including the many shuls in the area. The Shabbos ended with an inspiring havdalah by the Rebbe and the enthusiastic singing of Hamavdil. Accompanied by a live band and singing, the Melave Malke was a festive sendoff to the group that appeared to set the clock back to the days when Krakow was the capital of Galicia, not only for its royal palaces but as a center of Torah and chasidus where some of the legendary luminaries called home. At every turn, the Chasidim seemed to sense the void of the tens of thousands that had perished in the Churban, a message that was repeated by many of the notable speakers. But for just one Shabbos, the Rebbe and some 300 Chasidim proclaimed loudly: "We are back!"