The Yom HaShoah service was held on Sunday morning, 5 May, at 11.00 a.m. as a way of involving the Cheder children fully in the event, while also ensuring that there was a good attendance of adult members of the community.
This year’s service was led by our Rabbi Chava Koster, who introduced a new feature – that of depositing small white pebbles inscribed with the names of people who had perished in the Shoah in a number of glass jars. This replaced our previous custom of lighting memorial candles and echoed the Jewish practice of placing pebbles on the graves of the deceased when visiting a cemetery.
The service was followed by a talk by an invited guest, Mrs Roosje Steenhart Dekker, a friend of the Rabbi, who had been a hidden child during the Second World War. Through an arrangement with the Dutch Resistance Roosje had been left by her mother as a foundling in the porch of a house in Amsterdam while her parents went into hiding. The Amsterdam police did not allow the family with whom Roosje had been left to continue looking after her and she was transferred to the City Orphanage. During the bitter Hunger Winter of 1944-45 she was smuggled out of Amsterdam with a few other children on a potato boat on its return voyage to the agricultural province of Friesland after unloading its cargo in the city. Once in Friesland, Roosje was first placed with a village family with whom she was very unhappy, but was then fortunate to be befriended by a little girl in the street who took her to her home, where she was taken in and made welcome by a large family.
This brief idyll came to an end when Roosje’s mother came to reclaim her, but Roosje did not have any feelings for her mother at that stage and it would take many years before she became reintegrated into her family and restored to Judaism.
Roosje is now happily married to Robert, who accompanied her to Bromley. A book has been written (in Dutch) about her life as a foundling, but is not currently available in English translation. The text of Roosje’s talk will be uploaded to the synagogue website.