Quincy in the Spotlight – Kiesjeliesj, Baltimore & Jewish Identity #20

“Community means people and stories. The dynamics of diversity are an essential part. Chabad on Campus spotlights every week another member of the community with each their own story and vision.”

I’m Quincy I’m 23 years old and I’ve been living in the Amsterdam area my whole life. I grew up with two Jewish parents, so heritage for me, was always just a given especially because my parents wanted to give me a Jewish education. I currently study Business Analytics and will soon be working as a data consultant!

Growing up in the Netherlands while attending a Jewish school was a magical experience to put it simply. There was a very close-knit community in which all the kids went to the same daycare, primary, secondary, and high school so I grew up with them almost as if they were my adopted siblings. I have friends I’ve known since I was three for example and we are still very good friends who have a history you can’t quantify. I can’t see myself as not having that impactful connection. Going to Jewish events in Amsterdam usually means seeing people I haven’t seen in five years, but this connection gives us the ability to click, almost as if the years didn’t pass. It was really nice knowing that you have a group of people rooting for you even after graduation because that’s the really beautiful about this community, the personal connection you have with people. I wasn’t just a number on a sheet of names in a big high school, everyone would help you succeed, not just academically – they really cared for you. We celebrated almost every holiday, except for the very small ones and we would be free when normal students would have school. So that added to this feeling of being in a sort of Jewish bubble and it would be fun because it just gave you that impression that you were a part of something. Be it, dressing up on Purim or wearing blue and white some days at school.

Looking back on my time in high school there’s a definite feeling of nostalgia and seeing some of my classmates again takes me right back to the moment I was in class with 10 students, pranking our teacher or laughing about a joke. I was living in quite a bubble in the community so when I left high school and saw it from the outside I thought “Whoa” it is really small but in a sense special. I don’t think I realized that until I looked back on it when reflecting.  

For university, I spent six months abroad in the United States in Baltimore just before COVID, so I was very lucky. During my exchange, I had an interesting time understanding and learning the culture of the mainly African American community that lived in that area. Seeing the race politics in the United States play out in front of me when people told me that a place was a dangerous neighbourhood because it was primarily people of colour felt very different to Amsterdam. Since Jewish people are also a minority, I felt quite connected to that, although I wasn’t a minority being white in the United States, I still felt rather connected by perspective. I never considered how lucky I was in the Netherlands that Jews are not put in “dangerous neighbourhoods” or are segregated in a certain way. It took away a lot from this experience.

Growing up my favourite Jewish food was Kiesjeliesj. We would always get it on Purim and as a kid, it was the best thing ever as it was a fried powdered treat. Its sentimental because I don’t think it’s the best thing ever now but every time I eat it I just have this flashback of me sitting at my desk in primary school with a napkin full of powdered sugar and all my classmates blowing fallen sugar at each other. Currently, sabich is my favourite Jewish/Israeli food because I’m obsessed with eggplant. I cook all kinds of food as well but the sabich isn’t pictured because although it’s delicious it looks really messy! Through cooking and conversation, I like to share my culture with my non-Jewish friends if they show interest. I think a lot of people here are super tolerant and want to learn. 

Kiesjeliesj!

My family always calls us Cultural Jews as we celebrate all the cultural aspects of Judaism so rituals are very important to me. Community was a huge part of my life growing up as Jewish and I’m happy to have experienced it in this way.  

Amit Ben Ari

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