Atlanta native Jennifer Singer has lived and worked with the Jewish community of Krakow, Poland, the past eight months as part of a yearlong program with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Singer, who attended the Epstein School, is serving as a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow. She assists the Jewish Community Center of Krakow staff in developing programming to engage tourists and locals in Polish Jewish life. Jenn is part of a larger cohort of 20+ JSC Fellows serving worldwide with JDC.
In early June, Singer will help oversee the Ride for the Living, a 55-mile bike ride from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the JCC Krakow. It is one of the largest annual fundraising projects of the Krakow Jewish community.
“The Ride for the Living is not only to remember the Holocaust, but to celebrate the future of the Jewish community in Krakow,” Singer told the AJT. “The story being told of Jewish life in Poland is unlike any other in the world, and the JCC is helping lead the way to building the Jewish future of Krakow.”
Despite existing less than 60 miles from the worst of the Nazi death camps, the JCC Krakow has more than 600 Jewish members and is part of a thriving community with three active synagogues.
Singer said that the Krakow Jewish community has gained strength each year since the fall of Poland’s Communist Party in 1989 and that a growing number of young adults in the city are reconnecting to their Jewish roots. Add 1.5 million visitors each year to Auschwitz, many of them Jewish and staying in Krakow, and the community is in a good position to prosper.
“It’s very inspirational to be here in this city,” Singer said.
The 2016 Ride for the Living, held from June 2 to 5, will be the third time cyclists have made the trek across the Polish countryside in support of Holocaust survivors and the rebirth of Jewish life in Poland.
In 2014, 15 people participated in the ride. This summer, Singer said, organizers expect 100 to 150.
“With the funds raised from the first ride in 2014,” Singer said, “we were able to bring 30 of our Holocaust survivors to Israel for the first time. Many of them had never been on a plane or even traveled outside of Krakow for their entire life. Last year we had 85 participants and raised approximately $150,000.”
Funds raised from the ride go toward the JCC Krakow’s senior club (which includes 80 Holocaust survivors), Jewish student club, Sunday school and Club Bet for adults.
The Ride for the Living was inspired by Robert Desmond, a JCC Krakow member who in 2013 rode his bicycle 1,350 miles from London to Auschwitz, visiting World War II sites of liberation along the way.
Desmond realized that the ride should not have ended in a place of loss but at a place of hope, and the Ride for the Living was born.
Feel Like Going for a Ride?
Registration for the Ride for the Living from June 2 to 5 is open at www.friendsofjcckrakow.org/2016-registration. The registration fee, including three nights in a hotel, ranges from $500 per person for triple occupancy in a three-star hotel to $1,075 for single occupancy in a five-star hotel. There also is a commitment to raise at least $800 ($400 for those under age 30).