By Ilana Schear, Registrar and Communications Coordinator
For many teens, NFTY in Israel is a trip they grow up hearing about. Whether their parents went on the trip back in the 70s-80s, their older siblings went, or they attended a URJ camp, a kid waits and waits until is finally their turn. Even me, an only child and non-URJ camp kid knew about this trip from the age of 13 when I received a B’nai Mitzvah Certificate on the bima of Ansche Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, Ohio for a High School NFTY in Israel program. For Mollie, almost 3 years ago, it was finally her turn.
The Adventure I’ve Been Waiting For
By Mollie Sloter, Bus 4 participant
Finally, after nine years, I get to go on the trip of a lifetime.
I have been going to URJ Greene Family Camp since Bonim 1 and this is a trip that I have been looking forward to since I began. People always came back from the trip talking about how much fun they had, the friends they made, and the memories that they made. I saw the pictures and learned about the history of Israel and Poland, but now I actually get to experience it.
The airport was full of excitement and anticipation as we met new people and waited to board the plane. For many of us, it hadn’t really hit that we were finally on our way. Waiting in the airport, we all bonded over expectations and what we were nervous about. After a bit of a delay, we boarded the plane and were ready to go. Eight hours later, exhausted, we walked out of the airport and got a first look at Prague.
In the old city of Prague, new sights, smells, and sounds were all around as we explored and ate dinner. A woman blowing huge bubbles, colorful buildings, and authentic restaurants opened our eyes to a new culture.
After a much needed night of rest, we went to the Jewish Quarter of Prague once more. All over the city there were Stars of David, Hebrew writings, and other Jewish symbols. In the Pinkasova Synagogue, there was a strong sense of holiness as we learned about the history and legends of the area. The story about the Golem of Prague will definitely stick with us for a long time (shout out to Or and Gal for the great acting out of the story).
We also got to visit the Prague Castle and Cathedral. We were challenged to take a photo of the entire Cathedral, but it wasn’t possible. Because of its enormous size, there was always a corner or side missing. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside the buildings, but even from the outside we were all amazed by the beauty of the architecture. The area around the castle was also impressive. Picture perfect views and local vendors made the atmosphere fun and exciting.
This morning, we began the journey through the history of the Holocaust. We drove to the Terezin Ghetto and gained a better understanding of what it was like to live there. We were shown a video of propaganda that was sent to officials to make it seem like the Jews were treated well, when in reality, it was awful. As the video ended, there was total silence. We were all too shocked to know what to say. Then the emotions changed. As we learned about the ways that people tried to keep the Jewish culture alive, there was a sense of inspiration. A secret synagogue, orchestras, and art was created to keep humanity real. We then got the opportunity to walk around and participate in a memorial service along the river. It was a very special moment that will last a lifetime.