Libby Cohen’s Experience In Prague

Czech this out! G4 first departure had so much fun in Prague! After more than a day of travel and up to four plane rides for some, three for me, Prague welcomed us. First, we explored the city of Prague and looked at the beautiful architecture of the buildings that surrounded us. It’s amazing to see how different Europe is from the United States, but how we still can fit in. Our first meal was at the JCC of Prague, much different from any JCC back home. It consisted of multiple sanctuaries, a dining room, kitchen and other rooms for gathering. It is located in the Jewish quarter of the city, a place we spend most of our time in. During the day on Friday, our tour guide Liz brought us around the Jewish quarter into synagogues, a Jewish school, a museum and other community places. We visited the oldest synagogue in Europe. We also had the opportunity to go inside a museum filled with names on the wall. These names held special significance because they belonged to the 7000 Jews who resided in Prague and perished in the Holocaust. It was moving to see how Jewish life here substantially has changed and was a good introduction to our trip. We also had free time to walk around the main city square, buy treats, and peruse the souvenirs. On Friday evening and Saturday morning we returned to the JCC for services and prayed with the Masorti community. Although it was quite small, the community was very friendly and we felt welcomed. Rabbi Ron grew up in Chicago and New York, as well as being part of USY for many years, so we all shared similarities. He showed us around his shul and explained their traditions. On our way out the door afterwards, we were greeted by Jews in the community coming inside for dinner and felt comfortable saying shalom and Shabbat shalom and knowing it was safe. After praying, we walked to the Chabad for our meals. It was fun to see the orthodox community enjoying their Shabbas meals there too, which added to the sense of community. Rabbi Ron told us that Prague is the city with the least amount of anti-Semitism in Europe! Sunday was our last (part)day in Prague. After a delayed bus picks us up in the morning, we headed to Terezin for our first Holocaust memorial site. Liz guided us around the area, providing us with context for every site. It was very emotional to see it, especially knowing that it acted as a “model” for Red Cross to see how Nazis were treating people. We all crammed into the small synagogue the Jews had many years ago and speaking for all of us that was the most moving part. One of the subgroups, (on the first night we were split up into 5 groups that would meet throughout the summer, each with a different staff member) the one I’m a part of, created a ceremony there. We sang, read poems, our Rosh David said a prayer, and we explained to the group a sentimental tradition we wanted to start. We invited everyone to collect a rock from one or all of the Holocaust sites we visit to eventually place in Israel to represent the people that were never able to make it there. The ceremony in their shul was very emotional for the majority of us, tears were shed and hugs were had. It was a great introduction for the other sites we’ll visit. After that, we were en route to Berlin for the next adventure of our journey. We had our best dinner of the trip so far at Hummus and friends and then got ice cream! Yum! We’ve been having lots of fun bonding and exploring and I’m really looking forward to the coming weeks. Until next time…

-Libby Cohen ( BERUSY) MN, EEIP Departure 1)