Posted February 19, 2020
This month, LCLJ 10th graders traveled to Vienna with their Central Synagogue Confirmation Class.
The students learned about the history and presence of Judaism in the region, attending Shabbat services at the local Reform synagogue and touring sites including Mauthausen concentration camp—the last to be liberated during World War II—and the Stadttempel, the only synagogue in the area to survive Kristallnacht.
They also learned about Vienna’s rich classical music tradition at the interactive House of Music museum and attended a chocolate-making workshop.
Read two of the students’ reflections below and more online here.
The most striking and memorable story that has been portrayed thus far was the story “told” by the reform community we visited for Shabbat services. Though a considerably small community, with only 100 members in total and only 40 attending services last night (including our group of 20), the petite and cozy room that we prayed in felt incredibly alive. There were moments where I took a second to just listen to all of the voices and sometimes it felt as if I were in a room surrounded by hundreds of people, not 60. Not only were everyone’s voices strong, but almost all of the prayers were the same as the ones we do back home at Central. Many of the tunes were also the same. Although this might not immediately seem like a “story” this experience helped me understand what Jews in Europe have gone through both during and after the Holocaust as we had discussed these themes prior to Shabbat. Hearing every single person attending services singing, felt like the Reform community was screaming that they are here, that they survived, and that they are not going anywhere, which is an incredibly powerful message. Living in New York, we generally take being Jewish for granted. Being able to participate in this service reminded me of how lucky I am to be able to freely express my Judaism and how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing community that is still so alive everywhere today despite the size of the communities.
- Hannah Y.
Today was a very somber day that reminded us of our responsibility to continue the telling of stories regarding the Holocaust. In this day and age, it is very easy to distance ones self from the horrific tragedies that occurred during the Holocaust, but visiting Mauthausen took down the mental barrier that many of us put up as protection from experiencing even a fraction of the pain that our ancestors have experienced. As Jewish teens, who are part of the first generation of people without Holocaust survivors to tell us their own stories, it is incumbent that we learn all we can in an effort to preserve the memories of victims and to prevent any such tragedies from ever occurring again. One story that I took away from this experience was that of the SS soccer team at Mauthausen. This soccer team consisted of Nazi officials from inside the camp, and even went on to play in Austria’s national league abroad. Not only did they play away games, but they also had home games located directly outside the camps walls and directly next to the sick bay where upwards of 10,000 people passed away due to the harsh conditions they were forced to endure. Yet when interviewed, one of the soccer players claimed that he didn’t remember the sick barracks. All he remembered was the fame he received and the people from neighboring towns that went to support him. This is a stark reminder of how the terrors of the Holocaust were normalized within society. It is crucial that we prevent this from ever happening again. One way can try to do this is by telling stories that may be difficult to comprehend and accept are one way that we are able to do this.
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