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Twelve years ago, JFCS Executive Director, Dr. Anita Friedman, visited her father’s ancestral village in the Polish countryside. Since then she has returned to Gniewoszow multiple times and joins thousands of Jews who have traveled to Poland since the fall of communism. Friedman has built relationships with the local community and helped rededicate its Jewish cemetery as she grapples with her family’s lost homeland. She is also teaching teens in the Bay Area about this important history.
JFCS is the leader in Holocaust education in Northern California, and thousands of students each year learn about the Holocaust and other genocides through the JFCS Holocaust Center.
Additionally, teens who participate in JFCS’ YouthFirst program also receive Holocaust education. Friedman recently taught teens participating in the YouthFirst summer internships about her family’s history in Gniewoszow, Poland.
The summer interns first had the chance to think about how their families’ traditions have shaped who they are as people, and then Friedman shared her family’s experiences during the Holocaust and her powerful story about returning to Gniewoszow. The students were able to see very clearly that her family history has directly informed her core values.
- JFCS in the News
By Sue Barnett
Gniewoszow, Poland—Twelve years ago, brought her family from San Francisco to Poland to visit the ancestral village of her father. It would be her first time in Gniewoszow, one of the many towns dotting the Polish countryside where Jews made up a majority of the population before the war—and none after.
More than 200 of her relatives had lived here. All were killed in the Holocaust in death camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz. Only her father made it out alive.
Friedman, executive director of S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, wanted to share the stories her father had told her about this place—a place where several generations of the family had lived, loved and flourished. Though she knew that signs of Jewish life had disappeared, she planned to show her husband and three sons where the synagogue had stood and where her father spent summer days with his friends along the Vistula River eating cheese and fresh pears.
Friedman anticipated the 2005 trip would be a nostalgic, bittersweet journey to honor her father’s memory. What she didn’t expect was to be chased out of town.