We had the pleasure of attending a Kabbalat Shabbat services at the Timisoara Jewish Community Center. The services were held in the traditional neologue style and went by very quickly. Although most of us did not grow up going to this style of service, prayers could still be recognized which was pretty cool. After services we were treated to another amazing kosher dinner and song session. We met some young Israelis studying dentistry in Timisoara who showed us the night life. Saturday morning a few people attended services at a local shul while others either slept in or took the opportunity to explore the city. Later we did some reflection and programming with a Timisoara Jewish community leader. We were given a few hours to go explore the city before Havdalah services and a farewell party. Members from our group led a beautiful service followed by dancing and eating. The Romanian Jewish community was so welcoming and we will be forever grateful.
-Paul K and Hillary H
Today, a group of us got to go shopping at the biggest and coolest mall in Timisoara and shop for gifts for an underprivileged family and an elderly woman(including time to go to a few cute stores for ourselves and get some gelato)! When we took the gifts to the children it was the most overwhelming situation I had ever experienced. The children were 1 and a half and 4 years old. They live with their grandmother who has bone cancer and the parents were not in the picture. We were so saddened by the horrible living situation they were in. One room for all three of them filled with left over food, dirt, and any of their belongings they had.
With all of that being said, seeing these two children’s faces and how happy it made their grandmother to see the kids (who she described as her entire life) was life changing! As they opened up the blocks, bubbles, and other gifts we picked out for them, their faces lit up and they both exclaimed “wooooow!!!” they played the entire time we were there with smiles on their faces unlike any I had ever seen.
I am so thankful to have the opportunity to change their lives and make them forget their problems even if it was only for an hour!
Love from Romania!
Day 5! Renovating the house of a local Jewish woman in need. This is the after!
Being in Budapest the past few days was a very moving experience. I learned a lot about Jews in Hungary today as well as a lot of history. I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
While at the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest there is a tree. On the leaves of the tree there are the names of about ten thousand Holocaust victims that were from Hungary. I spent some time looking at a few of the names on the tree and after a few minutes I was able to find my great grandmother’s name on the tree, Lilly Schwartz Kline. It was pretty amazing to find her name on the tree just by sheer luck. This made this trip a much more personal and meaningful experience because it meant a lot seeing my personal family history. I tried to find a few more family member’s names on the tree but there was not enough time. Hopefully I will be able to go back to Hungary one day to check out the tree again.
A wonderful welcoming at the Arad Jewish Center
Day 4 was a long day. We left our hotel in Budapest at about 9 am to head for Arad, Romania. The bus ride took a lot longer than expected. We had to wait about an hour at the boarder of Hungary and Romania to get all of our passports checked and stamped. Once all of that was over it was a quick ride to the Arad Jewish Center in Romania.
The Arad Jewish Center gave us a very warm welcome of a delicious three course meal. During our meal a speaker told us about Jewish history in Romania and Arad.
Once we were all done eating we split into groups and visited some of the elderly living in the center. Sadly we only had a few minutes with each of the people we visited because we were so late in getting there. One of the groups met with a few women who were very excited for us to be there. It was a great feeling knowing that we were really making an impact on the people in this small community who don’t get very many visitors. I saw that one group received beautiful drawings from one of the residents.
After our visits we were shown great hospitality of a couple of really great singers singing some songs in Hebrew while we drank coffee and ate some birthday cake in honor of one of the residents. After we were finished at the center we took a tour of Arad and visited the synagogue there.
We then finally reached Timisoara. We had dinner at the community’s kosher restaurant. There was so much delicious food there. After dinner we did some folk dancing with the Romanians. It was a lot of fun.
Day 3 was a personal and meaningful day for many people in our group. We began our day at a JDC-sponsored home called Selah, which houses holocaust survivors in one part and special needs adults in the other part. We started out with the holocaust survivors, and people delivered gifts and talked to them about their lives. 6 of us volunteered to help out with an exercise class, and we sat in a circle and threw a ball to each other and introduced ourselves. The woman who ran the exercise program translated what we were saying to the survivors and what they were saying to us. some of them were able to communicate in English, but despite the language barrier for many of the people in this group we shared laughs and learned about their present lives and families. It was touching to talk to them and get to know them for a little bit. After the survivors, our whole group headed over to the special needs home and sang some songs with them, which was very touching.
After the Selah home, we spent a short amount of time at a Hungarian market where many us bought souvenirs like paprika, t-shirts and cups.
we then headed to lunch where we ate some delicious gnocchi and afterward split up into smaller groups to talk to hungarian individuals. Some people went to their homes to meet them and talk about their lives, and some people went to a “Cafe Europa” event where there were a group of women who survived the holocaust talked to us individually. Many of us were very moved by the people who shared their stories and opened up about their lives. At our debriefing session later in the day our group shared anecdotes and sharing these stories really made he Hungarian community come to life.
Many of us are looking forward to keeping in touch with the individuals we met.
The Kindergartners at Benjamin School teaching us some songs as well as singing ones in Hebrew we could all sing!
Just a little tid bit from Anna!
Yesterday we ventured to the Benjamin kindergarten and today we had the opportunity to go to the Sella home for people with individual differences! We could barely communicate with the Hungarian people at either place because of language barriers. Looking at each other with deer in the head lights faces or using body language was our only way to communicate with either group of Hungarians. But, in each situation both groups began to sing Israeli songs and the hungarians and Texans suddenly bonded on a special level!
I am so amazed by the fact that our groups have such different upbringings and cultures but singing Israeli songs or Jewish prayers brought us together to form our own type of community!!
With love from the not so hungry Texans in Hungary!!
— Anna E.