On March 8, 2008 a group of Bilgoraj survivors and their families checked in at Lot Polish Airlines at JFK for their first trip to the city of their birth since their escape 66 years ago. The program was beautifully arranged by Rabbi Nachman Elbaum of Ideal Tours, NY who also insured us with Kosher food and modern accommodations throughout our pilgrimage.

Looking at survivors, you saw anxious faces of “what to expect – respect or hatred/danger, bad memories of the last days before expulsion or the fond memories of parents caring for their children – of days of peace, tranquility with only daily life and Jewish learning on the agenda.” In the faces of the American generation of Bilgorajer, looks of concern of how their father will react upon reaching their childhood home and actually seeing what was discussed at every Shabbat table when they reminisced about life “in the heim” that was Bilgoraj.

On board the Boeing 747 blue and white plane were many Chasidim that were going to Poland to visit the geverim of their sainted Rabbis, parents, and ancestors. With all this and Kosher food being served, one would have thought we were aboard an El AL flight going to Israel. The passengers and crew were very respectful and welcoming. In fact, we were able to daven with a sizeable minyan without any fear.

After several hours, our jumbo jet landed in Warsaw and was greeted by our Polish driver and guide who knew much about Judaism than any goy I ever met.

A quick tour of Warsaw, and then to the Shul we our Mr. Huff and Dr. Nathan Bryks was the Chazan for Mincha and Maariv respectfully and then we were joined by 150 Israel soldiers boys and girls who came to Poland to learn why they are so important in our lives in protecting Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Michael Shudrich who works tirelessly in Poland spoke to all of us and then we saw the monuments the Poles erected to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and Shoah.

We then visited the Chabad of Warsaw where we rejoiced with home made kosher food and then went to our hotel.

In the morning, after davening, we visited the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery and I was surprised that our guide new where each of the Gdolim are buried and their importance in Jewish history. After some prayers at the keveraim, we departed Warsaw for Lishanz and prayed at the Kever of Rabbi Elemelech. Once again we met with the Israeli soldiers. Even those who were not religious understood the meaning, and wore kipot and even prayed with the rest of us. Then we drove to Bilgoraj where we checked into our hotel.

In the morning, I meet the Huff brothers and I remarked “Moshe, you and your brother slept in the same room under the Bilgoraj moon” just like you did in your childhood. Mr. Huff responded ” I felt the schechina of both my parents hovering around us and kissed us good night”. Mr. Huff’s older brother said “I felt the exact same way. How good my sleep was. the best in 66 years!”. I imagined life with my grandparents, great grandparents, mother, uncles, aunts with love and devotion making a Jewish life in a predominately Jewish town of 5,000 Jews and as many non-Jewish Poles. We went to the Rynk to meet with the Mayor of Bilgoraj, the president of the provincial council, and other dignitaries who welcomed us sincerely. We were also informed that there are still Jews in Bilgoraj however, distant from tradition since most of them were hidden children that were unclaimed after the war but they now know who they are and their true identities when the Russian records were recently released.

On November 16, 2008, The Bilograj Society will commemorate the 66th Yarzeit of the Shoah and reminisce of the life in Bilgoraj. It will take place at the Ocean Avenue Jewish Center – 2600 Ocean Avenue, Brooklyn, NY at 11am. We will discuss the positive outcome of our meetings concerning our properties, cemeteries, records of search for survivors as well as those murdered. We must discuss how to address the situation where brother/sister, nephew/nice who miraculously survived to be reunited with surviving family. In addition, the Rynk to be renamed after our families, reunion, the relationship between Bilgoraj families from around the world and our joint effort with the landsleit in Israel. Heimishe refreshments will be served.

We will also show pictures taken and the Polish TV documentary made during our visit to Bilgoraj.

It is vital that all Jews from Bilgoraj and the surrounding towns of Frompol, Tarnagrod, etc attend with their children and GRANDCHILDREN to experience their heritage before it is lost forever.

Any questions, contact Yechiel Baum at (718) 376-4508 or e-mail: BilgorajSociety@aol.com