Western Europe Discovery #1: Anne Frank’s House and Shabbat in Amsterdam

We started the weekend on Friday by waking up in Belgium! We spent the morning visiting a very somber place, Fort Breendonk, a deportation camp for Belgium Jews. That was a very meaningful experience for the teens as we were all able to connect to our past and learn about a very important piece of history. The kids commented how they have learned about the holocaust and heard of these camps, but seeing it had a lasting affect.

 

From there we drove to Amsterdam to prepare for a memorable Shabbat! We spent Shabbat services at the Portuguese synagogue in the heart of the Jewish quarter in Amsterdam. Following services in the “winter chapel,” our welcoming hosts took us for a tour of their chapel, which was built in 1675 and was unaffected during both world wars. We ended the night with a joyous, and festive shabbiest meal at the Chabad house of Amsterdam.

We got to sleep in on Shabbat, and boy did we need a little refresh. We had a beautiful morning service, led by our own teens, at a nearby park. Lunch was back at Chabad, where we sang, laughed, and interacted with Jews from all over the world. Following our meal, we walked to the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam, and finished our day with a walking tour of Leidseplein Square. We needed our night with an authentic “Dutch” Italian restraint where the kids enjoyed pasta and pizza!

Sunday was another fun-filled day, and our last as a whole group. We began the day learning about Dutch cheese, and how to make clogs. Our clog demonstration was hilariously funny and the kids had a chance to try cheese and buy clogs. After the cheese and clogs, our new friend Peter took us on a beautiful 10 mile bike tour of the Dutch countryside. We biked through beautiful villages of the north and enjoyed seeing sheep, cows, and picturesque scenery along the way.

Following the bike ride we enjoyed ample free time buying souvenirs, and enjoying various street performers. We headed to our dinner cruise on the Dutch waterways. We had a wonderful, unlimited pancake feast. We topped our pancakes with chocolate, fruit, meats, and various other yummy toppings. A few of us had a contest on who could eat the most, and the results were controversial with Taylor, Sarah, and Brian putting in a good fight!

Our night ended with a meaningful, and humbling tour of Anne Frank’s house. Seeing her house first hand, helped us put in perspective of what it was like for a teenager to live during the holocaust. We concluded our night with a heartfelt closing activity in which we reminisced on our time spent together and the impact each of us made on one another.

Today some of us will be traveling home, and others will be embarking on a new journey to Israel. It may be the end of this trip, but the memories, and friendships made will last a lifetime.

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