It was with some degree of trepidation that I boarded our plane to New York on Sunday. While Mary and I had accompanied teens on trips before, I was unsure whether we had taken on more than we should in chaperoning the teens to Europe from New York to Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Of course my fears were unfounded. Even though we ended up chaperoning 69 teens primarily from Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, accompanying these young adults proved to be an effortless experience. They were all very well behaved during the trip and were so excited to see each other that one could hear them as a group from some distance. Their excitement was infectious, even for those not associated with this trip. The flight staff on our plane commented to us on how well behaved our group was.
Once we arrived in Prague and recovered our bags (only two lost bags!) our official duties ended when we turned the teens over to the capable NFTY staff waiting for us at the airport. Fortunately, we are being allowed to tag along with the group for the rest of the Europe experience.
Yesterday, we toured the Jewish Quarter of Prague, led by the NFTY staff, some of whom played parts of Jews who lived in the City in past ages. We visited the “Old-New” Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue, and were particularly moved by the Pinchas Synagogue. Inside this shul, names of families and individuals who perished in the Shoah were printed on the walls. The teens were given pieces of paper and asked to pick a name and print it on the paper. They will keep the paper with them and place it in the Kotel when they visit it later in the summer. It was a moving experience to see the youth take this task on seriously and carefully tuck the papers away for later. It was a long day with lots of walking, but filled with wonder for all of us.
Mary and I have been assigned to group 8b. It has been a thrill to see this group bond with each other and their assigned staff. We were privileged to accompany them for their siyyum (closing evening program) last night and enjoyed their comments to each other and their staff with whom they are becoming close even after such a short time.
Last night, David Solomon, our senior NFTY staff for the Europe portion of the trip, gave a brief history lesson to us all on our visit today to Terezin. David held us all rapt as he discussed the beginnings of the Shoah and how it could have happened. As I write this, we are on the bus to Terezin, where the future (and the past) await us.
by Harry Levy
Chair of the NAC (Governing Body of URJ Camps and Israel Programs)
Chaperone, L’Dor V’Dor 3