on Friday, 24 June 2016.
Posted in school-news
NEWS FROM THE SCHOOL
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam for five days. I was entranced by the beauty of the canals, fascinated by the history of the Netherlands (power from those beautiful windmills drained swamps to create arable land) and mesmerized by the numerous museums showcasing everything from art and tulips to diamonds. Perhaps what amazed me most is that with all the marvels of Amsterdam, the most sought after admission ticket is the Anne Frank House! Tourists and residents patiently wait for hours in admission lines to tour the annex space above the factory owned by Otto Frank (Anne’s father) where the Frank and Van Pels families hid for two years during World War II.
Our experience at the Anne Frank House began with a docent explaining the events leading up to the Franks’ decision to go into hiding; describing the role of the “helpers” who brought food and supplies to them during the two years they remained in hiding; and the ultimate discovery of the eight hidden individuals by German security who sent them to concentration camps just months before the end of the War. After this information session, we were allowed to climb up the steep and narrow flight of stairs to their hiding space.
The people in our group were from different countries and religious backgrounds, yet everyone felt a connection with this young girl who poured her life’s dreams into the writing of her diary. Only whispers were spoken as we toured the annex and Anne’s diary took on new meaning for each of us. Pictures were displayed in each room depicting what the rooms looked like with furnishings when the Frank and Van Pels families lived there, but now the rooms are empty. When the annex became a museum, Otto Frank (the only one of the group of eight to survive the War) insisted that the rooms be left empty to represent the emptiness of those who died in the Nazi concentration camps.
As you leave the annex, there is a small museum containing mementoes form the Frank family, videotaped recordings of neighbors and friends who knew Anne prior to the War, as well as recordings of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust describing Anne’s final days in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. I was profoundly impacted by a videotape of Otto Frank sharing how difficult it was for him to read Anne’s diary when it was given to him after the War, and how amazed he was of the depth of her feelings. Despite living with her 24/7 for the two years they were in hiding, the thoughts that Anne shared in her diary were a revelation to Otto, and there was so much that he would never have known about Anne had her diary and other writings not survived.
Another impactful and profoundly Jewish experience in Amsterdam was visiting the Portuguese Synagogue. Descendants of those who escaped the Spanish Inquisition in Spain and Portugal during the late 1400-1500s in search of religious freedom, built this synagogue in 1675. Sephardic Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula were given the choice to convert to Catholicism, leave the country or be killed. Fortunately, the Dutch provinces welcomed the Sephardic Jews and allowed them to worship freely.
The synagogue is still used today in its original form—with no heat or electricity. The sanctuary is lit by hundreds of candles. The sand floor of the sanctuary absorbs dust and moisture, and muffles the sound of shoes as worshippers enter the holy space. We toured the sanctuary, mikvah, library, and tahara room (where a body is brought to be prepared for burial), and then climbed the stairs to the women’s section of this Orthodox synagogue. A rack of prayer books caught my eye and I opened one. My eyes were immediately drawn to the center of the page, and although I don’t read Dutch, I knew exactly what prayer I was looking at:
I was looking at the Dutch translation of the Hebrew words of the Sh’ma prayer, which I found in Hebrew on the opposite page in the prayer book. Immediately, I thought of our students and wanted to share how recognizable our Hebrew prayers are in any synagogue throughout the world and how our language of prayer binds us together, creating a sense of belonging anywhere we are.
Back in the U.S., we are gearing up for the 5777 Hebrew school year. We kick off with a Congregational Barbeque on Sunday, August 28, and an opportunity to meet the Preschool–3rd grade teachers from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Mark your calendars! Hebrew school begins on Tuesday, September 6. Our first Sunday is September 11, which will be a High Holiday Family Experience for Kindergarten through Sixth grade. Our complete school calendar and details about these fun programs will be mailed home in mid-August.
Have a wonderful summer.
Congregation Or Shalom21 Hawthorn ParkwayVernon Hills, IL 60061
Office HoursMondays: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.Tuesdays: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.Wednesdays: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.Thursdays: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.Fridays: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
P: 847-362-1948F: 847-362-7348
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