On the move

Since february this year I have been active as a board member in the international interreligious women’s group Iketh. Over the past couple of months Reinhild, Susanne, Naida, Martina and myself worked together to plan a seminar about hospitality and refugees called: On the Move. The 23rd of september it was finally go time. We were greeted in the beautiful Orthodox Academy of Crete by the sweet Katarina Karkala-Zorba with dinner. After all: food connects people. Afterwards I did the Kabbalat Shabbat and we got to know eachother better.iketh-3

The group was diverse in age, religion, background. There were people from Moldavia, Germany, Austria, Sweden and many more countries.  Our ages ranged from 24 to 74. There were Jews, muslims, orthodox, Catholic and Protestant.  In all that difference we had one common ground: we wanted to learn from eachother. And learning we did…  The program was a nice combination of lectures, workshops and outings. We for example started every morning with an meditation exercise. We also read in our different holy scriptures about hospitality and we had a lecture by Liska Berner about her work in setting up a refugee center in Athens. An even balance between practice and theory, religion and “worldly business”.

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Because of this balance everyone felt at home. As Ivana Gabalava put it: she never thought she, as an atheist, would be comfortable in a group of religious women but she felt safe.  It even made her feel powerfull to be with a group of such active women. We had a really exhausting but inspiring couple of days. I felt really proud to be part of such an amazing group of strong women. Women are often set to the side as being to emotional, to weak to achieve something. But all these women have achieved so much on their own, let allong what we could do together…

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Iketh meeting

A few months ago I was asked to join the preparation meeting for the congress. We were meeting in Tübingen to go over all the plans. Given my work in several dialogue groups I was immediately interested. I knew Martine from some lectures I had given in her convent so there at least was one familiar face.

Martine and I came in together from Holland on a very early train. I, not being such a morning person, first needed some coffee to adjust. Luckily Susanne made us feel right at home in her house, where the meetings were being held. We got really nice cookies and coffee. The easiest way to make friends, especially with me, is to eat together. And so we did… A lot…

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The meeting started with talking about the subject of refugees and the newest developments in our countries about that subject. We expressed our fear about the rising severance between pro and anti refugee people. I told them about my Jewish friend who spoke out publicly for a refugee centre in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood and how she was harassed afterwards. People said she was worse than the Nazi’s because at least there it was clear who was the enemy.

That evening we met Naida, who fortunately was able to come. We had dinner and talked all night long. Like I said before, food makes friends, and luckily Naida likes food as much as me! The next morning we met up again at Suzanne’s place where Reinhild led the meetings. We came up with a really nice and exciting program. There are so many interesting people in our networks.

During the break we went for a walk in the picturesque town and Susanne showed us the church where she works. I only had been in Calvinistic protestant churches so I was very surprised to see so many statues. Especially the statue of Moses with horns on his head made my day. Susanne told us allot about the history of the place which really was inspiring. In the evening Naida and I took another stroll through the city.

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Then Friday came and we all had to go home. Although I was exhausted I also felt energized. It’s rare to meet such a group of interesting, inspiring women who give you such a nice welcome and happy feeling. Reinhild even gave me the best compliment I ever had : Thank you for being you. Well, thank you all for being yourselves and welcoming me in such a wonderful way. I’m looking forward to the conference.

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Confronting Prejudice and Discrimination

Last June I got the chance to participate in a really exciting seminar hosted by the Anne Frank House.  About twenty teachers or educational staff from all over the world were flown into Amsterdam to share their experiences with confronting prejudice and discrimination. When I got the invitation I immediatly got excited. Although I’m really passionate about projects that work agains racism and discrimination, I’m a new in this field. There is still so much to learn.

In the weeks going up to june we got information about the other participants, which was exciting but intimidating. We had principals, leaders of communities and people who set up really interesting projects. And the week still had to begin!

On the first night we got together for dinner, and it’s really true: Food brings people together. Although everyone was really tired from their flight ( people just came in from India, Japan, Canada or the States) it was clear that this was an inspirational group of people. People who love to fight for what they believe in. And boy do they have to fight….

During the week I got to know them better and got to taste a little bit of the problems that they face in their respective countries. Some problems were really recognizable, like the problems with homofobia. Other problems really shocked me. We had a keynotespeech by Sarah Wicht from the organisation Teaching Tolerance  and she told us about the problems still happening in the US. How you can’t teach about gay rights or slavery in certain schools. I was so impressed how she stayed motivated after all this. The speech really made the group think about how we can use her wonderfull material all over the world.

We had allot of different workshops and keynote speakers. We laughed during the theater excercise, we cried during the tour through the Anne Frank House. But most of all we bonded as a group. Not only with the participants but also with the great staff : Ivana, Astrid, Cihan, Tobias, Sarah, Barry and many more. In the end of the week I was exhausted but also totaly motivated to work even more on a better world. With all the wonderfull tools I got that week.

Bijzondere ontmoetingen in het Joods Historisch

Met veel plezier werk ik al enkele jaren in het Joods Historisch Kindermuseum. Hoewel de naam van mijn functie elke paar jaar verandert ( gastvrouw, challebakster) blijft het werk hetzelfde. Het is mijn taak om bezoekers van het museum een welkom gevoel te geven, informatie geven over het jodendom en een workshop Challebakken geven. Je zou denken dat het saai wordt als je ergens al zo lang werkt ( meer dan 5 jaar!) maar nog steeds ga ik elke keer met plezier naar mijn werk.

Hoewel ik het Joods Historisch op zichzelf al een prachtige plaats vind om te werken, omdat de sfeer erg fijn is en je je als werknemer erg gewaardeerd voelt, is dat niet de reden dat ik het zo leuk vind om naar het JHM kindermuseum te gaan. Zelfs het feit dat ik mag vertellen over mijn passie en vakgebied: het jodendom, is niet het leukst. Het leukste is het contact met de bezoekers. Er komen zeer veel verschillende bezoekers naar het kindermuseum. Mensen van 0 tot 99, van Amsterdam tot Australië, Joden, christenen, moslims en niet-gelovigen. Iedereen met een eigen achtergrond en een eigen reden om naar het museum te komen. Het is een uitdaging om je verhaal iedere keer weer aan te passen zodat het voor elke doelgroep interessant is, maar dat is wat het leuk maakt.

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Meestal heet ik ze eerst welkom in het museum, waarna ik iets vertel over de keuken en de Kasjroet ( Joodse spijswetten). Als er kinderen in de groep zitten ga ik vaak met ze een Challe ( een traditioneel joods broodje) bakken. Gedurende dit proces heb ik vaak erg leuke gesprekken met de bezoekers over hun eigen tradities of hun band met het jodendom. Je komt hierbij vaak op interessante gesprekken. Zo ontmoette ik een paar weken een gezin uit Maleisië. We raakten aan de praat en binnen de kortste keren werd ik uitgenodigd om zelf een keer op bezoek te komen in Maleisië. Contact gegevens werden uitgewisseld en we hebben nu zelfs leuk contact via Facebook. Zo kom je op je kleine stukje Amsterdam de hele wereld tegen!

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