Prague, Present & Future

FZY members have been back on their travels! This time you'll be hearing about the recent trip to Prague from the wonderful Ella Pope.

Belonging to one of the oldest, most historically rich religions has a lot to offer; the

culture and traditional values are what unite the Jewish people as one nation.

Needless to say, the Holocaust was one of the most notorious events in Jewish history, nor

was it the first example of the persecution of the Jews. For years people have globally

dedicated their time to commemorate those who fell in the hands of the Nazis. Visiting

Poland with my school allowed me to walk on the grounds where my ancestors perished,

and learn more about the background of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Krakow, and other camps.

Intrigued by the history of the Holocaust, I left wanting to widen my understanding of

persecution beyond the atrocities in Poland. Then FZY offered the 'Prague, Present & Future' trip to the Czech Republic; we were to raise money to help restore Oskar Schindler’s old factory into a monumental educational site, and we would visit the factory during the trip.

It was impossible to jam the extensive amount of Holocaust education into one weekend - but we excelled at attempting to do so! The first day involved visiting Theresienstadt, which was a political prison used as propaganda by the Nazis, acting as a façade so they were not prosecuted for the dehumanisation of innocent people. However, as our tour guide noted, the Soviets were convinced by the disguise and were ignorant to the reality of the punishment and brutality within the walls. A friend and I discussed how the conditions resembled those we had seen in the camps in Poland - even the phrase ‘arbeit macht frei’ was painted on one of the gates. After delving into the shocking details of the conditions thousands of people were forced to reconcile with, we watched a propaganda film, presented to the Soviets and outside world, implying that the Jews were enjoying their lives in the ghettos and elsewhere, and that the Nazis were saving the Jews rather than executing them.

After a reflective afternoon, we visited the ‘Starnova’ synagogue and sat in on the

Friday night service and then ate dinner with the small pluralist community. Some

women wore trousers, others wore headscarves, and likewise the men were dressed

completely differently, which emphasised how even within diaspora Jewry, pluralism still

exists in all forms. Regarding the synagogue, although it was beautifully designed, many of us had issues with the division of men and women. whilst the men were able to sit within the actual synagogue, women were made to look through a small hole in the wall. This led on to an insightful discussion about feminism within Judaism, and how the situation has shifted from early days up until the 21 st century.

Shabbat was obviously the best part of the trip, especially as we spent it exploring the

Jewish quarter and putting our leadership skills into practice. Groups of us were designated

a certain synagogue or monument, then we had to create a peula to demonstrate our knowledge and

pass it on to the others in a ‘funducational’ way. Later that evening, we had a lovely

Havdallah and spent an evening exploring the streets of Prague… it really was a memorable

way to end Shabbat.