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RSY-Netzer goes Dutch

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At the beginning of April RSY-Netzer took a group of seventeen young people from Reform synagogues around the UK to Amsterdam. Frankie Stubbs, MRJ's Community Youth Development Worker reflects on a trip that was empowering, thought-provoking, educational and fantastic fun for all the participants.

RSY-Netzer's Amsterdam tripWe spent the first day getting to know each other and establishing agreements for the trip. We spent most of the day in the park playing games, laughing and eating. We all had lots of fun and it was great having time to get to know each other. As informal educators we take our responsibility very seriously so as we were in Amsterdam we had a discussion about drugs in which the chanichim (participants) discussed the dangers that they were aware of. We then went to a lovely pancake house where pretty much everyone ordered a sweet pancake for dinner!

Monday was much more centred around the central focus of the trip: to explore Jewish heritage and the impact of the Holocaust, looking at individual impact and identity.

We had a very moving visit to the Hollandsche Schouwburg where we all took part in a beautiful memorial service. The Hollandsche Schouwburg was a popular theatre in Amsterdam. After 1941 the Nazi occupiers restricted the theatre to Jewish performers and audiences. Between 1942 and 1943 Jews from Amsterdam and surrounding districts were obliged to report there before being deported to extermination camps. Today the Hollandsche Schouwburg is a monument and war memorial, listing the 6,700 family names of the 104,000 Jews from the Netherlands who were murdered in the war. We left wooden tulips with our own prayers and thoughts written on them, the children were engaged and respectful and it was one of the most reflective services I have been part of.

the Liberal Synagogue in AmsterdamIn the afternoon we visited Anne Frank’s House. Each person related to something different in this fascinating story and everyone had lots to talk about when we came together at the end. One person on the trip said that “seeing the individual point of view instead of just reading figures was very eye opening.” That evening we had “the best scavenger hunt of all time in Dam Square that included lots of pictures with slightly befuddled strangers and questions about our surroundings.” Dinner was a Pizza Canal Cruise where we had the chance to relax after a pretty intense day.

The final full day of the trip consisted of looking at present day Amsterdam and how this impacted on us as young Reform Jews. We visited the impressive New Liberal Synagogue (pictured right) just outside the centre of Amsterdam – a community well worth a visit. We held our own mini service there too where we reflected on the trip, what we’d learnt, the friends we’d made and the experiences we had.

That afternoon we had a short walk through the red light district. we discussed with the young people the role of women in the Jewish community and how we perceive individuals. Everyone was very respectful to the circumstances followed by a mature conversation.

On our final evening we played a very competitive ‘trading game’.  Each team received a tiny red clog key ring and had to trade this in for bigger and better things using no money. Things were swapped for trophies, books, leather boots and a ‘musical’ fish!

Wednesday morning, bleary eyed after a late night, we all journeyed to the airport full of enthusiasm and ruach (spirit) despite being sad to go home. Last laughs and jokes at the airport and a chance for feedback gave each young person the chance to be reminded of the fun and educational few days we were lucky to spend together.

Next year in Prague!

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